Visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Gas Station, Beverly Hills Shop, & Rental Cabin
Maybe you've seen Frank Lloyd Wright's circular Guggenheim Museum or his iconic Fallingwater residence, built over a waterfall, in Western Pennsylvania.
But have you visited the world's only Frank Lloyd Wright gas station in Cloquet, Minnesota? How about his glamorous Anderton Court Shops on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills? Do you fancy an overnight stay in a Frank Lloyd Wright cabin, in woodsy Lake Delton, Wisconsin?
Lindholm Service Station, Cloquet, Minnesota
The Lindholm Service Station is the only FLW gas station in the world. With the rise of the automobile in the 1930s, Wright foresaw the need for service stations in every town. Always one to look for beauty in everyday objects, Wright devised the “Standardized Overhead Service Station” - a design he hoped would become standard in every city and highway throughout the country.
The gas station was pulled from his 1935 model of a fictional, decentralized American town, “Broadacre City”, where every citizen would reside on one acre of property, in an open, back-to-nature alternative to the vertical metropolis. The city was never built; only its “Standardized Overhead Service Station” would see the light of day.
Wright, at age 90, finally got his chance to build his station after a 25 year wait. In 1952, Ray W. Lindholm, contracted Mr. Wright to design and build him a private residence, at the urging of Lindholm's daughter who had studied architecture. Later, Wright urged his client to build a gas station for Lindholm's Phillips 66 distributorship in Cloquet, Minnesota. Work began on the station in 1956 and continued until its grand opening two years later, in 1958.
Unique Features of the Station
The service station closely matches Wright's Broadacre City design: a windowed upper level waiting area overlooking the fueling bay, skylights inside the service garage to let in natural light, four service bays, plus radiant underground heating to melt ice off customer's cars. Cyprus wood was used for shelving in the garage, office and on decorative wood cuts in the restrooms.
The most unique feature of the station was its canopy which jutted 35 feet out from the building, with no supporting columns holding it up. Wright wanted easy access into the station and felt columns would mar the beauty of his design.
Gasoline was to be pumped from retractable hoses descending from overhead fueling compartments in the cantilevered canopy, with no ugly gas pumps to mar the view; alas, fire codes prohibited this practice (fuel must be stored underground) and traditional pumps were installed beneath the copper-covered overhang.
Flyer Promoting FLW's Service Station
Phillips 66 Sign
Current Spur Sign
Also unusual is the original 60-foot illuminated rooftop pylon adorned with “Phillips 66”, the initials “FLW” and “Wright” in a futuristic font.
A modern Phillips 66 sign with “World's Only Frank Lloyd Wright Service Station” stood until 2008 when Phillips 66 ended its presence in Minnesota.
Today a lighted “Spur” sign picturing Mr. Wright with the text “Frank Lloyd Wright” towers over the property.
A bronze plaque on the side of the building leads up to the waiting room and designates the Lindholm Service Station as being on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1958, Wright's station cost $20,000 to build, four times the national average. When it opened, owner Ray W. Lindholm was pleased with the results and corresponding fanfare, “A customer can stop almost anywhere and get good gasoline, but a beautiful observation lounge like this one is most unusual and will bring the customer back.”
People came from a 150-mile radius to witness the three day grand opening and enter the drawing for a portable television set. The station set a five state record, with 22,000 gallons of gasoline pumped for Phillips 66.
Owner John McKinney, Lindholm's grandson, says it is a testament to Wright's design that the building still functions as a service station today.
Next time you're in Duluth, take a little detour to see this gem in nearby Cloquet. If you're lucky, your car will break down and you can await its repair in this charming service station.
Where to find the Lindholm Service Station
Anderton Court Shops
Anderton Court Shops on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
Located on Rodeo Drive, in one of the most expensive malls in the country, Wright designed these small boutiques on three levels around a central light well, connected and accessed by an angular ramp. A stunning design, it still wows today.
In 1940, Wright was designing a spiral ramp for his Guggenheim Museum in New York City; that ramp reappeared in the Anderton building. Each shop stands half a level above the next on an open, hexagon spiral. Originally composed of five small shops, each with its own fireplace, a top level apartment was later converted into an additional shop.
View of the Spire From Below
Two central pylons support the cantilevered ramp while a white fiberglass spire rises dramatically above the rooftop. Wright intended the spire and trim to be built of copper, but this proved too expensive. After analyzing fiberglass boats, the team enlisted a local boat builder to fabricate the fascia and spire out of tinted fiberglass. Today the spire and formerly buff-colored building are now white, the trim is black.
Around the time the Court Shops were being built, Wright's Hillside Home School at his Spring Green, Wisconsin estate, Taliesin, was being rebuilt after sustaining a fire. The roofs of both the Beverly Hills Court Shops and Hillside were constructed with mesh-covered wooden beams set four feet apart, then coated with poured concrete on the exterior and plaster on the interior, in an attempt to resist fire.
Top Level Balcony, Anderton Court Shops
Interior, Anderton Court Shops
The balcony on the top level originally featured one foot deep diamond shaped planters. Later, the owner thought the gardening was too much work and installed concrete diamond-shaped tiles over the depressions.
History of the Court Shops
Ex-showgirl, Nina Anderton, was a wealthy widow who commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design the Court Shops to house her favorite designer's store.
Wright's on-site apprentice, Joe Fabris, stayed in Anderton's Bel Aire home during the construction. Fabris, while working on the building's ramp, often noticed movie stars dining at the adjacent Friar's Club's terrace, below.
The Anderton Court Shops, completed in 1952, are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Where to find the Anderton Court Shops
Seth Peterson Cottage, Lake Delton, Wisconsin
Not many of us will ever live in a Frank Lloyd Wright home. But with a little planning, you can experience that sensation by renting the Seth Peterson Cottage, just outside the Wisconsin Dells. Wright designed the cabin in 1958, just a year before his death. At only 880 square feet, this tiny structure, on a steep, wooded bluff overlooking Mirror Lake, shows how good design can come in any size.
The cottage includes one bedroom and bath plus an open kitchen, dining, and living area dominated by a massive sandstone fireplace which anchors the room. Floor-to-ceiling windows merge the outdoors and indoors, as Wright was fond of doing. The sandstone exterior and interior walls were mined from a local quarry; the floor and terrace are flagstone.
FLW's Other Projects That Year
History of the Cottage
Seth Peterson, who grew up near Wright's Wisconsin home, Taliesin, loved the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. After high school and a stint in the Army, Peterson repeatedly asked Wright to design a home for him and his future bride. Wright, busy creating New York's Guggenheim Museum, California's Marin County Civic Center, and the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church outside of Milwaukee, said no. Peterson gave Wright a $1000 retainer, which Frank promptly spent; thus Wright was obligated to design Peterson's dream home on his secluded wooded lot 40 miles north of Wright's Spring Green, Wisconsin.
Construction of the cottage began in 1959, just months before Wright died at age 92. Before the house was finished, after experiencing financial problems and a breakup with his fiancée, Peterson, aged 24, committed suicide in 1960. The house was sold to a Milwaukee man who, after its completion, lived there for five years with his Afghan hounds.
In 1966, the state purchased the house and property for $36,000 for inclusion in Mirror Lake State Park. Unfortunately, the rangers didn't know what to do with the property, so they boarded it up and it sat empty for 20 years, deteriorating and vandalized.
One day a local retired woman, Audrey Laatsch, canoeing on Mirror Lake, noticed the ruins of a cabin up on the hill. Intrigued, she soon discovered that one of Frank Lloyd Wright's last creations lay rotting up there in the woods. Determined to right this wrong, she formed the Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy with over 60 neighbors and FLW buffs. After receiving a $50,000 grant from the State of Wisconsin's DNR, plus a lease from the state to restore and operate the cottage as an overnight rental unit, reconstruction began in 1991. Shockingly, only the sandstone walls and flagstone floor remained intact.
Ruins Prior to Restoration
Restoration and Rebirth
At a cost of $300,000 the cottage was painstakingly restored to Wright's original design. What was left of the roof was removed and rebuilt. The stone floor was mapped, photographed, and removed, then relaid over concrete embedded with radiant heating pipes, as Wright's design had required. Cabinets and shelves were remade; Wright's furniture designs were finally created.
Finally, in 1992, the cottage opened for rentals. It is a building that honors both the vision of Wright, the architect, and his persistent client. Serene and stylish, the Seth Peterson Cottage has remained a popular destination for those fortunate enough to sleep and wake in a Wright-designed establishment.
The Seth Peterson Cabin sleeps four and is available year-round for rental, at $250-300 a night, with a two night minimum. With a few exceptions, the popular cabin is booked solid for about a year out. Public tours are available the second Sunday of each month from 1:30 – 3:00 pm for $4 per person. See www.sethpeterson.org for details and directions.