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Western Springs’ Vanishing Service Stations

While village residents probably own more cars and trucks than ever before, the number of gasoline stations in the village has steadily declined over the years. Today, we have just one!

A hundred years ago, automobiles were just starting to make their appearance in large numbers. In Western Springs, there were probably fewer than 50 autos in 1910. But, just a few years later, John Henrikson, the local grocer, asked and received approval from the village to install a gasoline pump in front of his store at 921 Burlington Avenue, where the Uptown Shop is located today.

Unfortunately, there are no known photos of this first “gasoline station”. But, it was probably short-lived, as numerous service stations soon appeared throughout the village. See second photo.

Central & Hillgrove

One of the earliest known gasoline stations in town was George Boger & Sons’ Red Crown Gasoline (part of Standard Oil), which opened in 1919. It was where today’s 7-Eleven is now located. Notice the other Boger’s product lines … poultry feed, coal, wood, and roofing materials!  See third photo.

47th Street & Gilbert

In the late 1920’s, Poynters Garage opened on the northwest corner of this intersection. It was a substantial brick building for its day, especially when you consider how few homes and businesses were in that area at that time. While they sold Wadham’s Gas (and later, Red Crown), they were also a full-service repair garage. See fourth photo.

In the late 1950’s, the new Garden Market shopping center was built across the street, which prompted the demolition of the old Poynters Garage in favor a modern Standard Oil station. This building still exists, most recently occupied by Maas Automotive. 

Wolf & Burlington

In 1928, Bill Lies opened a Texaco service station and garage on the southwest corner of Wolf & Burlington. As shown in the fifth photo, Bill was ahead of the game when it came to marketing his station to female motorists.

In the 1950’s, this corner became the location of Nel’s Cities Service station, which was re-branded as a CITGO station in 1965. The building was subsequently remodeled, first serving a travel agency and, today, as the home of Kavooras & Bouzios, certified public accountants. 

Ogden & Harvey

As early as 1924, a Red Crown station was operating on the corner of Ogden & Harvey.  As shown in the sixth photo, they also advertised “light lunches” for hungry motorists … sort of a very early version of today’s Speedway station concept. Today, this property is home to Mike & Henry's Auto Service.

Wolf & Hillgrove

Over the years, this intersection was probably home to more gasoline stations than any other in town. In 1934, this location had a Skelly gasoline franchise operating as the “Western Springs Service Station”.  See seventh photo. Subsequent businesses at this site included Zang’s Standard Service, Ray’s Standard Station, and Todd Lindahl’s Amoco Station. Today, this corner houses a modern 2-story brick building with various retail and service businesses.

Located directly across Wolf Road was Ray’s Phillips 66 station, which Ray Kramer opened in 1959. The station operated until 1967, when it was purchased and razed to make room for the current village hall. 

701 Burlington

In 1949, Jim Benak opened his Shell service station on Burlington Avenue, just a half block east of Wolf Road. The station was subsequently operated by his son, Frank, who also served the village as its fire chief. While the building’s days as a gasoline station ended in the 1990’s, it continues to serve residents as Benak’s Auto Service. See eighth photo.

Hillgrove & Grand

This corner housed several stations over the years. In 1961, it was Zimm’s Texaco and, by 1966, it was known as Jim’s Texaco.  At that time, service stations were still selling gasoline for less than 30 cents a gallon and giving their customers free or heavily discounted merchandise!  See ninth photo. In the 1980’s, the station became home to Glen’s Union 76. Today, this corner is occupied by the Community Bank of Western Springs,

The last remaining gasoline franchise in town is the Mobil Station located at 55th & Wolf Road. This raises the obvious question of why this station has survived, while the others have all but disappeared.

According to one former operator, large oil companies wanted to concentrate on high volume locations and de-emphasize auto repair. So, in most cases, stations had to be located at a busy intersection or their days were numbered. Also, as the value of real estate soared in the 1980’s and 90’s, many station operators decided to “cash in” and sold their property to other types of businesses.

Whatever the reason, it’s fun to reflect on these simpler times when a motorist could go just a few blocks from home and get their oil, tire pressure, and antifreeze checked for free, their windshield cleaned, plus a few S&H Green Stamps … all for about 30¢ a gallon!

If we failed to mention a station or two, or if you just have a favorite “filling station” memory, please post a comment.

Lee Shell October 24, 2012 at 06:54 PM
I always try and support local businesses, but stopped buying gas at 55th and Wolf months ago. Not only is the price of gas always higher than surrounding stations, but the customer service is terrible. Last year, I had to always go inside for a receipt because the paper was never refilled. Then there was the period when all gas had to paid for inside. I left notes for the owner to no avail When talking to the person working inside, some were great, others were testy. When asked about the receipt situation, one employee said "the owner just doesn't care." At least LTHS benefits from my gas dollars because I shop in LaGrange.
Darren McRoy October 24, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Thanks for sharing, Lee! I don't suppose you prefer the Shell station in Countryside? :-)
John Devona October 25, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Well, if this type of problem continues, we might be headed toward NO gasoline stations in WS. I hope not!
Oscar Madison October 25, 2012 at 12:26 PM
I never go to 55th and Wolf, either. That station is sometimes thirty cents (!) per gallon higher than nearby stations. There's no reason for that, other than showing contempt for your customers. I wouldn't even buy a pack of gum there.
Dirk O. December 10, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Growing up in the sixties, I remember a Phillips 66 service station at Harvey and 47th Street. I fondly recall riding my bicycle over the hoses next to the pumps that would ring the bell (when a customer drove in).

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