Since 1922, this teapot-shaped gas station has been a fixture on a highway near Zillah, WA. Built as a comment on the Teapot Dome scandal , the service station was in operation through the 1980s, but has been boarded up since then.
No longer on “the” main highway, the classic roadside attraction was in danger of fading away. But, luckily, the City of Zillah stepped forward to save the teapot.
Thanks to individual donations, grants and a loan, the teapot was picked up and moved recently to a new site right in town. Repair and restoration is underway, with a ribbon cutting scheduled for mid-May.
Zillah's teapot has a new home
Zillah's teapot is getting a makeover
When the teapot is completed, it will serve as welcome center for visitors stopping in town.
Travel between Yakima and Sunnyside, Washington on Interstate 82 and you’ll come upon a turnout for the town of Zillah, home to a 15-foot-tall teapot complete with sheet metal handle and concrete spout.
It’s a classic 1920s bit of roadside architecture that for many years served up gas to motorists and a history lesson to everyone.
The story goes that Jack Ainsworth decided to build the teapot after a night of drinking moonshine and playing cards. Ainsworth and his buddies were appalled over the outcome of President Warren G. Harding’s decision a year earlier to transfer the control of naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming and Elk Hills, California from the Navy to the Department of the Interior.
It seems that the then Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, had leased those oil fields to two businessmen who had given him what ultimately were deemed to be illegal ‘loans.’
Investigations ensued, fines were paid, folks ended up in jail, and the oil fields reverted to government control in 1927.
Ainsworth built the Teapot Dome Gas Station to poke fun at the whole situation
while the trials were underway and, until it ceased commercial operation in the early 1990s, the station was said to be one of the oldest functioning gas stations in the United States.
Even though it was boarded up and forlorn-looking on the edge of town, the teapot had a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Now it’s going to have a place of honor in Zillah’s tiny downtown.
The city of Zillah raised funds to purchase, re-locate and re-purpose the teapot as an information booth and last week, minus its spout and its shingles, the teapot was packed up and trucked into town.
When it is all put back together, repaired and refurbished, the Teapot Dome Gas Station, along with its old “Gas” sign and outhouse, will sit next to the Civic Center in Zillah, WA.
Carhenge, a classic and kitschy roadside attraction just outside of Alliance, Neb., is up for sale.
Price tag: $300,000.
Created 24 years ago by Jim Reinders during a family reunion, Carhenge is a sculpture made of 38 gray-spray-painted vintage American cars replicating Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. Some of the cars stand upright, while others are welded in place to form arches.
“It’s astronomical what Carhenge means to our community,” said Dixie Nelson, executive director of the Alliance Chamber of Commerce. “More than 87,000 people visit it each year. The people in Omaha said they wished they had it, even though they already have so many attractions there.”
Not long after he built it, Reinders gave Carhenge, and the 10 acres of farmland it sits on, to the nonprofit Friends of Carhenge, a group that has maintained the site and improved it over the years with a building, a parking lot and additional sculptures.
But Marcia Buck, president of Friends of Carhenge, says the group no longer has the money or the staffing to do Carhenge justice. “We do what we do and we do it every summer, but we recognize there’s more that can be done out there. Putting in an RV park or a restaurant or expanding the building, for example, would take a lot of cash that we just don’t have.”
Buck said she’s talked with Reinders, who now lives in Arizona and visits Alliance and the sculpture about once year. “He’s always surprised it’s lasted this long,” said Buck. “And he understands.”
This story first appeared on msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin.