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West Allis in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Wadhams Gas Station

Established April 20, 1927

 
 
Wadhams Gas Station Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, November 3, 2014
1. Wadhams Gas Station Marker
Inscription.  In 1916 Wadhams Oil & Grease Company saw the market potential of serving early auto owners, many of whom purchased gasoline in buckets to be stored at home. The solution was an off-street gasoline distribution center to be known as a gas station. Wadhams Gas Stations went on to become a prominent regional chain in the Midwest only a few of which remain standing today.

Famous Milwaukee architect Alexander Eschweiler’s Wadhams Gas Station design is considered to be iconic. His ingenious design married a typical steel-frame, glass-walled, box-like gas station 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 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 Wadhams Gas Station remains in its original location and in 2000 was restored to its 1950s state with the support of the West Allis Historical Commission. In 2004 the building was designated
Wadhams Gas Station Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, November 3, 2014
2. Wadhams Gas Station Marker
West Allis Landmark #3
as a local landmark as well as being listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. This landmark is owned and maintained by the City of West Allis. It contains historical displays of petroleum products once sold and equipment used by previous owner Frank Seneca who owned and operated the gas station from 1954 to 1978.
 
Erected 2006 by West Allis Historical Commission.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceNotable BuildingsRoads & Vehicles.
 
Location. 43° 0.715′ N, 88° 0.446′ W. Marker is in West Allis, Wisconsin, in Milwaukee County. Marker is at the intersection of South 76th Street and West National Avenue, on the right when traveling south on South 76th Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1647 S 76th Street, Milwaukee WI 53214, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Honey Creek Settlement (approx. half a mile away); Old Honey Creek School Site (approx. half a mile away); Camp Harvey (approx. 0.6 miles away); Wisconsin State Fair Park (approx. 0.6 miles away); President Abraham Lincoln (approx. 0.6 miles away); Meadowmere (approx. 1.4 miles away); Harrison Ludington Farm
Wadhams Gas Station Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, November 3, 2014
3. Wadhams Gas Station Marker
from corner of 76th and National.
(approx. 1.7 miles away); Wood National Cemetery Civil War Memorial (approx. 1.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in West Allis.
 
Regarding Wadhams Gas Station. Information regarding Wadhams Gas Station from the Milwaukee County Historical Society website:

The Wadhams Station in West Allis, located at South 76th Street and West National Avenue, was built in 1927. Harger W. Dodge, a son-in-law of Edward A. Wadhams, inherited the Wadhams Oil and Grease Company of Milwaukee in 1916. Responding to the merchandising problems of the new petroleum industry, Dodge set out to make his retail gasoline stations both utilitarian and aesthetically appealing.
He hired Milwaukee’s most prominent society architect, Alexander C. Eschweiler, to design a prototype gasoline station. Eschweiler may have chosen the oriental design for two reasons: the first was that the Japanese model had been established in the Midwest as a viable model for architecture at the Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis World Fairs of 1876, 1893 and 1904 respectively. The second possibility was that he was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in designing the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan. The station in West Allis was designed and built by Hugo C.
Wadhams Gas Station image. Click for full size.
By Paul Fehrenbach, November 3, 2014
4. Wadhams Gas Station
looking to the south.
Hauser of Milwaukee.
The Wadhams “oriental” station was incredibly successful, resulting in the building of over one hundred such structures between 1917 and 1930 throughout the Upper Midwest. Its unique characteristics included white painted brick walls, wood framed roof covered with stamped metal tile painted red, and stained glass windows on the north and south elevations. The stained glass windows are yellow displaying a large red “W” to advertise the company. The tile was manufactured by Bauer and Ward Sheet Metal Company; the brick came from Rickertson and Schwartz Brick Company.
Frank Seneca leased the station from Wadhams in 1938 until he retired in 1978. Restored in 1999-2000 by the City of West Allis Department of Development, the interior currently displays many artifacts from Wadhams and Mobil.
 
Additional keywords. Early Gas Stations
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on November 18, 2014, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 338 times since then and 28 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on November 18, 2014, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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Nov. 25, 2020