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This photo shows a West Clybourn Street gas station in 1932. (PHOTO: Courtesy of Milwaukee Public Library)

Milwaukee's vanished Downtown gas stations


This morning The New York Times had a story headlined, "Manhattan's Vanishing Gas Stations," and it immediately reminded me of the small service station that once sat on the southeast corner of Kilbourn and Van Buren.

It also reminded me that in 30 years in Milwaukee, I can't really think of many Downtown gas stations beyond that one, a small hidden one across from the U.S. Bank Building on Michigan Street (also gone) and the former Citgo on the corner of St. Paul and South 2nd Street, which remains (as a BP), but whose land has been offered up for sale to condo developers in the past.

There are a few stations not far out of Downtown, like the Shell across from Shank Hall on the lower East Side and the Mobil on South 1st Street in Walker's Point and some as you head west out on Wisconsin Avenue.

But, really, it seems pretty amazing that in three decades in a city that's littered with available space Downtown – and in a city that loves its cars – there have been so few gas stations Downtown.

The Times points out that the stations are falling victim to real estate pressures.

"Spurred by the recession and now the recovery's development clamor, service stations popular among New York cabbies and motorists are literally losing their ground to apartments, stores and offices," reads the story. "Rezoning of these sites for residential use has also spurred development."

But that's not happening here. The Citgo on St. Paul is still open, despite the Third Ward condo boom. The lot on Kilbourn has been empty since the station was demolished years ago (except for the seasonal Stein's that sets up there in spring) and I don't think much of anything did – or could – replace that one-pump joint that was on East Michigan.

Interestingly, even repair shops, like the Midas that once stood where the Moderne is located and the Goodyear showroom that was on 5th and Wells (and more recently 6th and Wells) are long gone.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not eager for the center of the city to become a landing pad for sprawling, over-lit gas stations, but if we all drive – and most of us do – and the kinds of real estate pressures at work in Manhattan don't apply here, why are there no Downtown gas stations?

Talkbacks

Bobby Tanzilo | Oct. 23, 2013 at 1:57 p.m. (report)

Hi Chris. I did mention that one but I identified it as on 1st Street (it opens to both 2nd and 1st)... "There are a few stations not far out of Downtown, like the Shell across from Shank Hall on the lower East Side and the Mobil on South 1st Street in Walker's Point and some as you head west out on Wisconsin Avenue." But, yes!, I remember that one now, too, that was in the structure. I remember it more as a repair shop, but I'm not surprised it had pumps, too. Also gone.

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TheyThink | Oct. 23, 2013 at 1:40 p.m. (report)

Don't forget about the sprawling Mobil station in Walker's Point on south 2nd. There also used to be an 'underground' gas station between Water & Broadway located off an alley very close to where the drive thru windows are for Associated Bank downtown. It was also a auto repair place in addition to having pumps.

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BCZF | Oct. 23, 2013 at 12:18 p.m. (report)

There is also a station on Virginia just west of The Tannery office complex.

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BCZF | Oct. 23, 2013 at 12:13 p.m. (report)

The Citgo on 2nd and St Paul is now a BP station. Cleaned it up very nicely

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