Edwardsville's West End Service Station

Now that the City of Edwardsville, Illinois, has announced that it will hold a Route 66 conference in 2015, some of you farther afield might still be saying something like, "Oh, I think I drove through Edwardsville in between Henry's Rabbit Ranch and the Luna Cafe," or, "What does Edwardsville have left of its Route 66 heritage, anyway?," or "Frankly, my dear, where in the hell is Edwardsville?"

Those of us who are Edwardsville residents - whether long-term or transplant (like I am) -realize that we have done a less than stellar job of sharing our Mother Road heritage with the larger Route 66 community. Although, I will point out that in the past two years my Historic Preservation Commission colleague Cindy Reinhardt and I have nominated two local businesses/businesspersons to the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame (both accepted), we have researched, designed, and had printed Edwardsville Route 66 rack cards, and every other year, Edwardsville hosts the Route 66 Association of Illinois Motor Tour at our annual June Route 66 Festival. Also, I've been writing numerous articles about Edwardsville 66 history for publication in The Prairie Land Buzz, The 66 News, and Show Me Route 66 (not to mention one of my books, Route 66 in Madison County, which features a large chapter on Edwardsville.)

Some of those stories are still available online in The Prairie Land Buzz. (The past 12 issues are online.) But in the interest of sharing some more about my adopted hometown and its place on Route 66, I'm going to simply post some of my past articles, with photos, as blog posts, beginning today:

"West End Service Station in Edwardsville"
Originally published in The Prairie Land Buzz, July 2013

Sixty-sixers love their service stations...even when economic re-use turns them into used car dealerships, mini-museums, trendy restaurants, or...dental offices. Dental offices? That's exactly what happened to the attractive blonde-brick building at the corner of St. Louis and West Streets in Edwardsville – the former West End Service Station. Looking past the attactive landscaping and tidy parking lot, one can see how the windows fit into the two former garage door spaces and how the overall size and shape of the building would have been a perfect Route-66-glory-days service station.

In 1927, Springer's Madison County Oil Company established a service station on the northeast corner of St. Louis and West Streets in a residential neighborhood that included some of the finest homes in Edwardsville. Henry J. Springer, Jr. operated the new station. The small building was constructed of red brick and was set at an angle facing the intersection. It was designed and constructed in the house-with-canopy style typical of the 1930s. The station featured Texaco petroleum products.

A professional photograph taken in 1927 shows the new Springer's Madison County Oil Company service station at the corner of St. Louis and West Streets with its Texaco products signs. The red-brick building was set at a diagonal to face toward the intersection. At this corner Route 66 briefly turned south to pass by the Edwardsville High School before heading southwest towards Mitchell. Courtesy of Dr. Dale G. Claussen.
Robert L. Smith and Ralph Ladd formed a partnership in 1936 and took over the station on April 16 of that year. Renamed the West End Service Station, its operators boasted new improvements and a new line of products. According to a local newspaper article, a “new, modern hydraulic hoist” and a “complete air pressure lubrication system” were installed. “The new hoist assures a complete and thorough greasing and oiling job on all types of machines,” the article went on to say. Brand name products featured at the station were now Mobil gas, oil, and grease, plus Socony vacuum products and “other specialties.” The station advertised its hours as being open from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm. Station attendants were listed as Robert Smith, Ralph Ladd, and Earle Ladd, who had all completed the Socony lubrication course at a St. Louis training school.

As of October 28, 1936, Mr. L.L. Schade and his son Norbert were listed as the operators of the West End Service Station. The Schades added Freezone antifreeze products and a valet service for cars needing lubrication or an oil change. Norbert Schade's previous five years' of garage work gave customers “assurance of [work] being done thoroughly.”

During late 1938 into 1939, Route 66 was repaved through Edwardsville on what is now known as Route 157. Due to construction, the West End Service Station was closed temporarily in 1939 while the pavement was torn up and the highway was rebuilt.

According to a newspaper item, Earl Ladd reopened the station “in temporary quarters, pending completion of a new building being erected there.” Ladd's grand opening of the new West End Service Station was held on Saturday and Sunday, August 5 and 6. The new station, “The Home of Friendly Service,” featured all Mobil products and car washing. According to a newspaper ad, souvenirs were to be given to all customers on opening days. The new building was of yellow brick and was built squarely on the corner lot instead of on the diagonal as the previous building was.

Three high school students pose for a snapshot in the 1930s at the West End Service Station. From left to right are Mary Simons, Eileen Kleuter, and Virginia Abendroth. Just a block away from the new Edwardsville High School, the station was a handy spot for teenagers to stop for a cold soda. Courtesy of Steve Rezabek.
The West End Service Station continued in business until the 1960s when it was converted to a dental office. Dr. Robert L. Marks opened his dental practice in the building in 1966 and practiced there until the early 1980s. Dr. Dale G. Claussen established his dental practice there in 1985 and continues as of 2013. Photos of the service stations that were on that corner adorn the walls of the dental office. Dr. Claussen and his staff are proud of the Route 66 heritage and of the preservation of this fine example of 1930s service station architecture...the former West End Service Station.