Texaco Station, Westminster St.

also known as West Broadway Neighborhood Association headquarters

A present-day example of early car service culture — white enamelled panels with bright green and red accents and an utilitarian design

About this Property

#Current Events

Non-profit owned and restored, this former neighborhood gas station is an office and community meeting space. The West Broadway Neighborhood Association’s informal origins began in 1983, when four neighbors began to gather in their living rooms to share ideas and advocate for improving conditions and services in the neighborhood. In 1992 the group formally organized as a non-profit neighborhood association, received an IRS determination as a 501(c) 3 organization and became known as the WBNA.

WBNA purchased the gas station in 1997 and, with Glenn Buie and Virginia Branch as architects and the Providence Revolving Fund as construction manager, renovated the building into the neighborhood association headquarters, all while preserving the look and feel of a classic Texaco filling station. Intact are the prefabricated enamel exterior panels and the operable garage bays come in handy during warm summer neighborhood meetings. 1560 Westminster was originally a residential dwelling that, like many Victorian structures on this street, was demolished for commercial use when Westminster Street became part of Route 6, an east-west interstate spanning both coasts, during the first quarter of the century.

#History

A very similar Texaco station from Elmwood Avenue, circa 1940. Part of the John Hutchins Cady Research Scrapbooks Collection, Providence Public Library

The Texaco company enlisted Walter Dorwin Teague to design the template for their gas stations. While he probably did not design this station specifically, it follows the corporate architecture guidelines that he created. He was one of several versatile industrial design consultants in the United States, designing cameras for Eastman Kodak, glassware for Steuben and gas stations for Texaco, among other things.

Excerpted from “Walter Dorwin Teague: Designer of the 1930s: Gas Stations,” Jeanne Willette

As the book The Gas Station in America by John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle explains, the expansion of an ordinary building from a place to buy gas to a specialized structure for a variety of related services was a phenomenon of the Depression. The Depression marks the beginnings of the modern consumer culture as businesses used advertising and branding to identify themselves in an effort to urge the customer to buy. Because gas was not selling as much during the hard times of the Depression, gas station design changed to include related services — tires, batteries, accessories, and repair services. The design themselves became more “modern” in appearance — large expanses of plate glass, stark exterior decoration, terra cotta or porcelain facing, and branded colors.

While gasoline station design followed loosely the edicts of the new “International” style championed by the Bauhaus school in Germany, they had more correctly introduced “Depression architecture” — a stripped-down, functional aesthetic that put a new optimistic face on hard economic times. Walter Teague, hired by Texaco in 1934, created a new look for the company: white streamlined boxes that were thought to give the impression of speed, modernity, and progress. Some 10,000 of these stations were ultimately constructed.

Source

  • “Walter Dorwin Teague: Designer of the 1930s: Gas Stations,” ArtHistory Unstuffed, Jeanne Willette, February 23, 2018. Captured December 31, 2020 from https://arthistoryunstuffed.com/walter-dorwin-teague-designer-of-the-1930s/