After years of wondering what the final outcome would be, I finally got a chance to see the Frank Lloyd Wright’s filling station that had been designed on paper but never built. Thanks to the stalwart dreams of Pierce Arrow buff Jim Sandoro, Buffalo is now the home to one of the most unusual and significant gas stations ever built.
The station idea was conceived at a time when Americans were just getting used to the idea of traveling longer distances by car, and Frank Lloyd Wright was the man with the plan who felt that travelers should be met with the comforts of home when out on the road. That’s why this gas station comes complete with a living room and working fire place, as well as a top of the line wash rooms similar to what Wright would have incorporated into one of his homes. “The station was designed in ’27-’28 and the plans sat in a drawer ever since,” Jim told me. “The first station was supposed to be built in Buffalo at the corner of Cherry and Michigan. It was commissioned by William Heath of FLW’s Heath House, who owned the Tydol Gas Company – hence the Tydol illuminated neon sign and memorabilia. Of course Wright went wild with the design, incorporating gravity feed tanks with gas bells, copper materials… even the gas attendant had his own fire place. In the end, the station was too expensive, so the plans to build these across America were scrapped. Now we’ve built the only one in Buffalo so that people can see what Wright had envisioned.”
As part of the Pierce Arrow Transportation Museum, the filling station makes a huge splash. The station lights up in all directions, is surrounded by stunning Pierce Arrow cars (built in Buffalo), and mezzanines and outdoor patios, with a giant glowing hub cap beacon that you can walk up to and almost touch. There are wet bars for parties and walls of glass with vaulting rooflines.
The filling station museum is attached to the first phase of the transportation museum (a separate room), which is filled with a slice of automotive history that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Eventually the museum will grow to 100,000 sq.’, as Jim continues to make room for his collections, many of which are currently off-site. In the meantime, the filling station will be ready for public viewing later this spring, as Jim puts the final details into place, and rearranges both gallery showrooms for prime time.
Pierce Arrow Transportation Museum | 263 Michigan Ave | Buffalo, NY 14203 | 716-853-0084