Keeping History Alive

Every time I drive along National Avenue in West Allis, I’m attracted to this old gas station at 76th Street. Last week I had a chance to walk by so took a photo and noted a sign with this information of historic significance.

“This Wadham’s Gas Station is a small pagoda style (Asian-influenced curved roof) gas station of the 1920s. These unique gas stations were once a prominent regional chain and only a few remain standing today. Milwaukee architect Alexander Eschweiler’s design is considered to be an iconic design in gas retailing history. His ingenious design married a typical steel-frame; glass-walled gas station box of the period to a swooping roofline, creating a building that was functional and efficient, as well as eye grabbing. The idea behind the design was to use color and a striking silhouette to distinguish the building from the visual clutter of a typical roadside strip. Its flamboyant roof was instantly recognizable, making the building the centerpiece of Wadhams Oil & Grease Company’s market image.

“This Wadham’s Gas Station was restored to its 1950s state in 2000 with the support of the West Allis Historical Commission. The building is designated as a Local Landmark and is on the State and National Registry of Historic Places. This landmark building stands at its original location and is owned and maintained by the City of West Allis. It contains historical displays of petroleum products and equipment used by previous owner Frank Seneca who owned and operated the Gas Station from 1954 to 1978.”

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