The quirkiest vintage gas stations you can still visit on a road trip, from a photographer who spent 40 years documenting whimsical roadside attractions across the US

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  • Photographer and architecture critic John Margolies spent 40 years documenting quirky and whimsical roadside attractions across the United States.
  • Between 1972 and 2008, he captured a total of 11,710 images, which are now available under the public domain through the Library of Congress.
  • Margolies photographed everything from diners to motels to billboards, but took special interest in fast-disappearing gas stations built during the “glory days” of road travel in the early 20th century.
  • Business Insider combed through Margolies’ archive to find the most architecturally interesting gas and auto repair stations still around today.
  • From a dinosaur shed to a teapot dome, here are 6 of the most eye-catching vintage service stations you can still visit in the US.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.


1. Harold’s Auto Centre in Spring Hill, Florida

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Harold’s Auto Centre photographed in 1979. John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Story: Built in 1964, this former Sinclair gas station has a 47-foot tall, 110-foot long dinosaur as a roof. Harold’s Auto Centre, a family owned-and-operated business, took over the building in 1977. “Although we are inside a Dinosaur we stay up to date with what your vehicle needs!” they write on their website. Roadside America made a point to note that Dino’s eyes “look like giant olives.”

Location: 5299 Commercial Way on Route 19 near Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Source: Library of Congress


2. Hat n’ Boots Gas Station in Seattle, Washington

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Hat n’ Boots photographed in 1977. John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Story: Artist Lewis Nasmyth designed this western-style gas station featuring a 44-foot cowboy hat and 22-foot-tall cowboy boots in 1953, according to Seattle Parks and Recreation. The station opened in 1954 and drew “a stampede of customers” up until the early 60s when a new interstate changed traffic routes. Roadside America reports that each of the two boots served as men’s and women’s bathrooms. The station closed in 1988, but the City of Seattle embarked on a restoration project and moved the landmark to Oxbow Park in 2003.

Location: Oxbow Park, 6427 Carleton Avenue South

Source: Library of Congress


3. Teapot Dome in Zillah, Washington

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Teapot Dome gas station photographed in 1987. John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Story: Architect James Ainsworth built this 15-foot Tea Pot Dome Service Station in 1922. According to the City of Zillah, he drew inspiration from the ongoing Teapot Dome Scandal, which exposed bribery and the secret leasing of federal oil reserves by the William Harding administration to oil barons. The teapot is now a visitor’s centre and sits in Teapot Dome Memorial Park.

Location: 117 First Avenue

Source: Library of Congress


4. The World’s Largest Redwood Tree Service Station in Ukiah, California

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World’s Largest Redwood Tree Service Station photographed in 1991. John Margolies

Story: Redwood Tree Service Station, originally called the “World’s Largest Redwood Tree Service Station,” dates back to 1936. Its main building is built out of the stump of a 1,500-year-old redwood tree from a nearby forest. The service station has been in continuous operation since the 1930s, though it no longer pumps gas. The stump is now a museum with automotive relics and vintage photographs, according to the company’s website.

Location: 859 N State St

Source: Library of Congress


5. The Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe in Shamrock, Teas

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Fina gas station photographed in 1982. John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Story: This former Fina gas station’s most notable feature is a four-sided obelisk topped with a metal tulip. The station dates back to 1936 and and is known officially as The Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café. Though its red-white-and-blue paint has been removed to reveal light pink concrete, the Tower Station has otherwise remained unchanged. The building, which included a café and retail space, now operates as a visitor centre, chamber of commerce office, and community centre, according to the National Park Service.

Location: 101 East 12th Street at the intersection of US Highway 83 and Route 66

Source: Library of Congress


6. The Delta Queen Car Wash in Campbell, California

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The Delta Queen Car Wash photographed in 1977. John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Story: The Delta Queen Car Wash in California dates back more than 50 years and resembles an old paddle wheel riverboat, one you might see on the Mississippi. “The riverside theme is extended with wooden plankways and a water feature,” Roadside America writes. “There’s a coffee shop, and a gift store with a carp tank. It’s next to a Hooters… what more could you ask for in a car wash?

Location: 981 East Hamilton Ave

Source: Library of Congress