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Author Topic:   Solvang, A Service Station Haven???
the poor mans museum
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Posts: 1650
From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 04-28-2005 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Solvang, A Service Station Haven? Part 1
By Curt Cragg


If you drive through the tourist village of Solvang today, you experience the feel of Eastern Europe. The quaint Danish and European architecture of many of the beautifully designed buildings that have evolved from the early tourist days of the 1950’s evoke images of Bavaria, rather than the old perception of a “Danish Disneyland”. Of course, as a collector of roadside relics, when I’m driving through town my thoughts immediately turn to more important issues, like where the heck to you buy gas!

The truth is, nowhere. At least not in the tourist part of town, as we locals think of it. You can drive through town from the west and stop at Jim Enderle’s station just before you leave Solvang or , if you’re headed the other way, make the drive to Buellton and the cluster of stations around the freeway ramps.

It may be hard to believe that there was a day when Solvang was a “Service Station Haven”. In fact that time was around the 1950’s and 60’s when for some reason that I can’t explain, there were more places to buy gas than there were T-shirt shops.

Let’s cruise down memory lane on Mission Drive and visit these old stations. My car of choice for today is a 57 Chevy Bel Air, convertible of course. We’ll travel from east to west starting at Kelsey Chevrolet where I might have bought my Bel Air from the new owners of the former Solvang Garage.

Solvang Garage and Kelsey Chevrolet
The Solvang Garage was founded in 1912 and was Solvang’s first service station. Around 1925 a new building was erected next door to the old garage featuring modern service equipment and a showroom for Chevrolet cars. Jack Ross would operate the Solvang Garage until 1956 when he retired and sold the business to Frank Kelsey of Arroyo Grande. Kelsey renamed the business Solvang Motors and eventually Kelsey Chevrolet. From the very first gas pump placed at the Solvang Garage until Kelsey Chevrolet moved to it’s new location in Buellton, the dealership would also have a service station on one of the busiest intersections in Solvang.

One of the earliest pictures of the Solvang Garage features a large “Seaside” sign on the roof. Seaside Oil, based in Summerland, California had a large presences in Santa Barbara County in the 1920’s and 30’s. However they weren’t the only brand being pumped at this new service station. In fact Jack Ross’ daughter Gladys tells me that there were probably as many brands of gas as there were pump on the islands. One of those brands for sure was Richfield, as a curb sign for their brand can also be seen in the early photos.

In California, as the service station industry develop in the early 20’s four major companies dominated the branding and marketing of gasoline. They were Standard Oil Company, Shell Oil Company, Associated (better known as Flying A) and Union Oil Company. Smaller aggressive companies were also trying to carve out a share of this burgeoning business, including local Seaside Oil and Los Angeles based Richfield. As a result “perks” were offered to the independent dealers to carry a distributors brand of gasoline. These perks might include signage, gas pumps or even garage equipment.

Emerging from the depression of the 1930’s, many oil companies would end up in a consolidation which would last into the 40’s and continues even today. As this happened the larger companies would be able to offer greater perks that would give them exclusivity at the stations. They would also open corporate owned stations to ensure their presence on a regional and national basis.

Solvang Garage would eventually become an exclusive Texaco dealer and for at least twenty years carry that brand, until after the business was sold to Kelsey. Kelsey would later fly the Richfield banner until the business was moved to Buellton and the history of Solvang’s earliest service station was ended.

[This message has been edited by the poor mans museum (edited 04-28-2005).]

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Thunder
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From: Colorado
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posted 04-28-2005 08:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Thunder   Click Here to Email Thunder     Edit/Delete Message
I've got Momma out warmin' up the old Dodge right now!!! We're headed for Solvang!!!

Poor Man, we have room in the cab for one more... We'll just put the dog in the back for now...

MORE... MORE... MORE...

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+Chris Holt
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From: St. Clair MI USA
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posted 04-30-2005 05:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for +Chris Holt   Click Here to Email +Chris Holt     Edit/Delete Message
Curt, I really enjoy your storys, Kepp it coming

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the poor mans museum
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From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 04-30-2005 06:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Sorry Momma, we can't take the truck. We're crusin' in a 57 Bel Air. Let's cruise on down the road in Solvang.

The Solvang Service Station & Lunde’s Chevron

Diagonally across the street from Solvang Motors on the southwest corner of Alisal and Mission sat Solvang’s second oldest service station. This station was simply called, “Solvang Service Station”. The business was founded by Soren “Rock” Sorensen around 1928. Like the Solvang Garage, this station offered a mixed bag of gasoline brands in the early years including Union 76, Shell and Standard Oil. Standard would eventually secure an exclusive dealership, which would eventually become the more commonly known Chevron brand.

Understanding the evolution to the Chevron brand is important because most locals would come to know this station as “Lundes’ Chevron” for many years to come. When Elmer Lunde arrived in Solvang from Askov, Minnesota in 1946 he purchased the station from Rock Sorenson and it became “Elmer Lunde’s Chevron Service” in the same location.

Like the Solvang Motors building, the Solvang Service Station featured a Spanish Mission style of architecture. A “revival” of this style was particularly popular in the 1920’s, especially in Santa Barbara County. It was also appropriate at the time given the proximity of this intersection to the historic Mission Santa Ynez.

However, we’re cruising through town in the late 1950’s and Elmer Lunde’s Chevron is sporting a new location and a new look. Around 1955 Lunde leased property from the Catholic church on the southeast corner of Mission and Alisal and built a new station. This new “modern” service station would feature the increasingly popular Danish Provencial style of architecture, including the distinctive cross hatching and thatched roof. Interesting that such a combustible material would be allowed on a “gas” station.

The shift to Danish architecture in this visible location was a testament to the changing trend from a town of Danes to a Danish tourist town. In fact, in the postwar euphoria it was quickly become a tourist mecca, thanks to California’s increasing love affair with the fast moving automobile and an extended and expanded network of roadways.

------------------
C Cragg
www.poormansmuseum.com

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Thunder
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posted 05-03-2005 09:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Thunder   Click Here to Email Thunder     Edit/Delete Message
What colors, do you think the pumps are, in the second photo. I recognize the Chevron logos, but the colors dont show up in the "Restoration guide" in the Chevron section. Do you think that those doors are cream colored, or white?

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the poor mans museum
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From: Solvang, CA, USA
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posted 05-03-2005 11:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Based on the time period of that photo the pumps were most likely green with cream doors. That's a 1950 or 51 Studebaker truck in the driveway. The photo was scanned from the newspaper and I changed it to gray scale and lightened it so it wouldn't yellow out, which is why it appears whiter.

Shall we continue on the journey?

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Dick Bennett
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From: Santa Paula, Calif
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posted 05-03-2005 11:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dick Bennett   Click Here to Email Dick Bennett     Edit/Delete Message
Drive faster DAD, I gotta go POTTY !

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Gas Pump Rob
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From: Fillmore Ca. U.S.A.
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posted 05-04-2005 12:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gas Pump Rob   Click Here to Email Gas Pump Rob     Edit/Delete Message
Curt,
Great job! Please continue. How do you get any daily contracting work done? You have spent so much time on all this. Speaking for everyone thank you very much for all your hard work and dedication to the hobbie, and this website.

Rob

PS. It is great to learn about all of this local history! All of these places of interest are within 30 miles of my home!!
I hope you start a trend and get other members to post their local history .

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+Chris Holt
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posted 05-04-2005 06:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for +Chris Holt   Click Here to Email +Chris Holt     Edit/Delete Message
Curt ,great job, I feel like I'm in the car with you, with my arm out the window, enjoying sunshine and the tour, Lets go for a burger and a beer I'm hungry

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the poor mans museum
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From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 05-04-2005 08:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Sorry, no burger stands on this trip, but there was an A&W Rootbeer in town at one time. Jump in, we're going for a ride down memory lane.

The famous Split Pea Anderson’s and the little town of Solvang were just a day trip from the L.A. basin, thanks to the improved cars and roads. These big new cars were also gas guzzlers, which might have justified the need for eight service stations in Solvang in addition to the ten or so in nearby Buellton. Given that the local population of the towns numbered in the low thousands, it was not likely that the locals alone could support that much service on their own.

By the time the day trippers arrived in Solvang their needs were simple, find a bathroom, buy gasoline, and get something Danish to eat. Since the town rolled up by 5:00 pm they could be back on the highway and safely at home in bed before 9:00 pm. Occasionally some would make a weekend out of it and stay at one of the local inns. This trend would hardly change over the next fifty years, with the exception of far fewer service stations at the end of journey.

In terms or architecture Lunde’s station was a trend setter. Virtually all of the stations to come after it would feature the Danish style of architecture. Whether because of imitation or local zoning requirements all gasoline in Solvang would be dispensed from Danish huts throughout the fifties and into the seventies or at least until the demise of all of the service stations in town.

When Lunde vacated the southwest corner or Alisal & Mission for his new location across the street, the remaining building would open the opportunity for more service at the intersection. Richard Ray opened Ray’s Mobil featuring Mobil gasoline and products at the former Lunde’s location. Following Lundes lead a new Danish style station building was erected featuring a long protruding canopy stretching toward the street and a high pitched hip roof over the office and service bays. The buildings signage was so discreet, that not even the familiar flying Pegasus of the Mobil brand was featured anywhere on the station.

With the opening of Ray’s Mobil, service stations were so prolific in Solvang that you could pump gas on every corner of Mission & Alisal. Elmer Lunde’s new Chevron station held down the southeast corner, now a vacant lot. Ray’s Mobil covered the southwest corner where King Frederick’s court now reigns. On the northeast corner was Solvang Motors featuring Texaco and then Richfield, where the Svendsgaard Inn now rests. Across the street at the current site of Denmarket Square set Sun Motors. Sun Motors was the local Ford dealership. They also pumped Shell gasoline primarily for use in their own cars.

Today the only thing pumping liquid on the corner of Mission and Alisal is the mermaid fountain, pumping water, and sometimes soap, when added by local pranksters.

Looking Ahead
It’s hard to imagine Solvang as a Service Station Haven today and yet we’ve only visited half of the service stations that were here at one time. On our next trip down this memory lane we’ll visit the other four and find out if any of the buildings remain from this bygone day.

[This message has been edited by the poor mans museum (edited 05-04-2005).]

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the poor mans museum
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From: Solvang, CA, USA
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posted 05-12-2005 07:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
It's time to get back on the road again. The second half of my story on Buellton is due out in the newspaper tomorrow. On Oldgas you're getting an exclusive preview of stories that won't be seen locally for several months.

Do you feel special?

Solvang, A Service Station Haven? Part 2
By Curt Cragg

On our last journey we never left the corner of Alisal and Mission Drive in Solvang, and yet we visited four service stations and two car dealerships, including Solvang’s oldest service station. Where are they now? Gone!

On these corners there’s not even a remaining building to remind us of the days when Solvang was a service station haven. The best we can do is stand at the corner, look out across the vacant lot toward the mission and picture Elmer Lunde coming out to greet us as we fill up at his Chevron station. Perhaps buried in that vacant lot is some token of those days of service, but there isn’t a structure standing to take us back to that time.

If you drive down Mission through town and consider that at one time there were eight filling stations, can you even identify one building that remains from those bygone days? Actually, if you’ve been around long enough you probably can, but there’s only one left.

In July of 1956, Chick “Chicken” Barrett opened a Union 76 station in a newly constructed building. We know from his grand opening ad that a ½ pound box of See’s candy was offered to the first 150 customers to visit the new station. Opening on a Saturday in July would require catering to a plethora of tourists, but the locals had been tipped off about the opening in the local paper and no doubt made it to the candy first.

Chick’s sons worked at the station when they were in high school. Both boys loved sports. His son Jan was so good that he went on to play professional football for the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi and the Oakland Raiders. Tragically, Jan was killed in a boating accident in 1973.

Barrett’s 76 was the “midtown” station situated at the corner of Atterdag and Mission Drive. Following Lunde’s lead, this new station featured the requisite thatched roof and Danish detailing. A canopy stretched out from the roofline shading the pumps and the service lanes. After the station shut down, this canopy was glassed in for a time and the Union 76 became a hamburger hang out.

Just because the gas pumps are gone, doesn’t mean that the building no longer exists. One of the more artfully converted station buildings, it now houses the Santa Ynez Valley Real Estate Company. Of the eight service stations that once served Solvang, it’s the only remaining building in town.

The canopy has been cut off and is now a dormer window in the roof. The driveway has been replaced with landscaping. If you tried to drive into the service bays you’d end up in Rich Condit’s office. Today they’d probably prefer that you come in and sit down rather than drive through their front lawn, but they’re still happy to provide you with old fashioned service at this former service station.

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the poor mans museum
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From: Solvang, CA, USA
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posted 05-13-2005 06:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Danish Village Service Station
Allan Jones sells real estate from Chick Barrett’s former 76 station and not far down the street at the corner of Mission and 4th Place his brother Randy sells insurance at the location of a former station too. Currently the home of the Jones Organization, the Danish Village Service Station once offered the Sunland brand of gasoline to the citizens of Solvang.

This station was owned by Hans Skytt and managed by John Finnell. It was not nearly as elaborately designed as the other stations, although some hints at Danish architecture existed. The simple canopies were mounted above the pumps on floating islands, rather than tied to the main station building. Being Sunland, this was probably the cut rate version of gas, although at prices averaging out around 35 cents a gallon, who would complain today?


The station was so simple that not many people even remember that it existed. It was probably that and it’s somewhat discreet location on little known 4th Place in the middle of Mission. The original station building has been extensively remodeled, but Randy Jones tells me that vestiges of the old building still exist. To see it you have to enter the attic of the existing building. Not quite as pronounced as the old 76 station, at least the spirit of this old station still stands in the same location.

The last two stations to serve Solvang along this journey have completely disappeared, much like the four that once stood at the corners of Alisal and Mission Drive. The properties that supported them became too valuable for gas station land and they were torn down so that other buildings could be built.

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BudE
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posted 05-13-2005 08:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BudE   Click Here to Email BudE     Edit/Delete Message
Just givin a BIG THANK YOU for all the interesting reading. It's been great all along.

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the poor mans museum
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From: Solvang, CA, USA
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posted 05-16-2005 08:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Thanks BudE, appreciate that you're reading my posts and the rest of you too.

Petersen’s Shell

In a town where the name “Petersen” is almost as common as “Smith” it’s sometimes hard to know which Petersen owned which building or business. In this case, “Howard” Petersen’s Shell station was situated to the west of the park where the Best Western hotel is currently located, almost across the street from Chick Barrett‘s 76. This station was opened around 1962 in the midst of the gas station “boom” in Solvang.

Howard is a Solvang native, his parents were migrating Danes, migrating from the Midwest and the too cold winters, as many Danes did in the early days of Solvang.. In addition to being a service station owner, Petersen was a public servant, serving on the Solvang Volunteer Fire Department and as a trustee of Solvang Elementary School.

In a write up about his station in 1975, Petersen is quoted as saying, “I hope Solvang, and the Santa Ynez Valley grow slowly so as to give us all a beautiful place in which to bring up our families.” 30 years later those same words hold true for all of us that have the privilege of living and working in this wonderful place.

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+Chris Holt
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posted 05-17-2005 04:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for +Chris Holt   Click Here to Email +Chris Holt     Edit/Delete Message
Great job Curt, can't wait to read your Book when it comes out.

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