If you think about places to buy gasoline today, you imagine a very functional undecorated building with a dozen or so gasoline pumps in front. The flat roofed rectangular structure has lots of space for displaying potato chips, candies, cookies and many coolers for soft drinks and beer. There was a time when the image of gasoline stations was very different. If you go to a large book store that has an extensive array of coffee table books, you will likely find one or two showing pictures of the first generation of gasoline stations and motels—places that were built in the late 1920s or even in the Depression decade. There was a time when imaginative architects were hired to design gas stations and motels and were given a budget to be creative.
The McPherson Oil Company Station on North Main Street is an example. In the later 1920s and into the 1930s, Art Deco was a strong influence in architectural design but there was also an interest in incorporating Spanish and Moorish themes in building. If you will examine some of those coffee table books about early gasoline stations and the motels built three decades before Holiday Inns came upon the scene, you will see many pictures of both Art Deco and Spanish-Moorish architecture.
The gasoline station pictured above was built in 1934. Unfortunately, I do not know who designed it. Elements of both Art Deco and Spanish-Mission and Spanish-Colonial style were included. Although I have not seen pictures, I assume that there was a small island with two pumps located in front of the station. And then you see a single bay at an oblique angle. That is, once upon a time, service stations were presumed to have a mechanic available who could successfully complete minor repairs on your Packard, Hudson or Stutz. Note the crenellated tile above the single service bay at the roof line. Given the roof’s position, I assume that there was no lift to raise the vehicle in the bay. Instead, there probably was a pit that a mechanic could enter to service the car.
I do not know when this station ceased to sell gasoline and service cars. There is a McPherson company in this area that operates modern gasoline stations in Commerce Township, Highland, Wixom and Pinckney. I do not know if that firm is the successor to the organization that erected this attractive building on North Main in Milford.
Today, this gasoline station serves as a retail outlet for the upscale Posh firm that provides wedding accoutrement and hair styling. I suspect that few of the future brides who enter the Posh office to consult about their marriage realize that they are walking upon an area that was once used to drain oil, replace radiators and fix brakes on automobiles built while Presidents Coolidge and Hoover were toiling away at 1600 Pennsylvania.
The McPherson Oil Company Service Station adjoins the building that once was the home of Howland Lumber, another building listed on the Michigan Register of Historic Sites. If you look carefully, you can see that there are still two distinct building.
The people in Milford who preserved these building and now maintain their quality deserve praise. However, they have not yet erected those attractive State of Michigan green historical markers. One such marker could honor the McPherson Oil Company Service Station on one side and the Howland Lumber Building on the other.
Architect: Unknown to me
Date of Construction: 1934
Architectural Style: Spanish Mission or Spanish Colonial style with Art Deco components
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: P24, 482 Listed July 19, 1990
State of Michigan Historical Marker: None has been put in place
National Register of Historical Places: Not listed
Use in 2009: Retail store for hair styling and wedding planning
Website for the bridal store: http://www.poshbridesbykari.com/
Website for the beauty salon: http://www.posh-studio.com/
Photograph: Ren Farley; September, 2009
Description prepared: November, 2009
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