Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station
The Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station
building is at 940 Military Ave. in Baxter Springs, KS. The
building now houses the Route 66 Visitor’s Center, which is open
to the public Monday-Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm. Call
620-856-2066 for information or visit the Baxter Springs
Heritage Center and Museum website.
Not even 13 miles, 12.8 miles to be exact --that’s how long
Route 66 is in Kansas. Despite its short length, the route
passes through three towns that are rich in cowtown, mining, and
route 66 history -- Galena, Riverton, and Baxter Springs.
In Baxter Springs, motorists will find a bold example of its
Route 66 history in the Independent Oil and Gas Service Station.
The stock market crash of 1928 and the Great Depression that
followed left major oil companies in disarray. Some companies
failed, and others were bought out. The survivors struggled to
attract and hold customers in order to rebuild their damaged
brands. In a savvy public relations move, oil companies began
establishing uniform station designs that immediately identified
their brand to car-driving customers.
For good reason,
many of these new station designs had a distinctly domestic
flair. The homey, cottages designs sought to appease local
customers by blending into the surrounding neighborhood and
provided travelers with a sense of security and comfort during
an economic era fraught with uncertainty and discomfort.
Baxter Springs has a prime example of just such an
“automotive cottage.” Small and square when it was built in 1930
at the north end of the Baxter Springs commercial district, the
station featured brick and stucco walls, a pitched roof, a
chimney, and shuttered windows. A small copper-roofed bay window
was located next to the entrance, and Tudor Revival influence
was apparent in the cross-timbered gables and deep eaves. In
1940, the building was enlarged without seriously disrupting the
building’s original plan, form, and materials.
shield-shaped Phillips 66 pole sign still stands at the
southwest corner of the property. The station’s design clearly
conveys its original use as an early service station as well as
the intentional “welcome home” iconography of its owners--first
Independent Oil and Gas and later Phillips Petroleum.
Citizens of Baxter Springs have had a strong interest in local
history and preservation for a long time. In 1980, the Baxter
Springs Heritage Society opened a museum. The society became
interested in the gas station, which had stopped selling
gasoline and been used as a gift store, dog-groomer’s shop, and
chiropractor’s office. In 2003, the National Park Service listed
the station in the National Register of Historic Places, and the
heritage society acquired it the same year.
the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program
and the Kansas Humanities Council and local volunteer labor and
in-kind contributions assisted with the repairs and cleaning
needed in order to reopen the building as the Kansas Route 66
Visitor Center. The center had its grand opening in 2007.
Occupying a corner lot, the building continues to communicate
its 40-year association with Route 66 and to offer services to
the travelers of today.