Gas station towers lined Westwood Boulevard in 1934. (Huntington Library)

The picturesque designs of Los Angeles’ first gas stations

Early motorists used to fill their tanks at curbside pumps, a recipe for traffic that quickly proved untenable. The solution was the drive-in gas station, and they proliferated rapidly across American cities. By 1929, the U.S. Census counted 8,650 filling stations in California, many clustered along the streetscape of Los Angeles, where residents’ love affair with the automobile was in full swing. Competition was fierce. To stand out, many operators resorted to flamboyant architecture, including broad use of Art Deco style, soaring towers, and features that reflected the popular fixations of the time, such as airplanes and Arabian palaces. Here are some favorite photos of Los Angeles’ early gas stations drawn from the state’s library archives. 👇

Bob’s Air Mail Service Station offered fill-ups beneath the wings of an airplane in 1936. (Pomona Public Library)
Women posed in Tunisian-style clothing at the Calpet Service Station in Los Angeles, circa 1920. (California State Library)
A Specification station on the corner of Washington and 8th Avenue, circa 1930s. (via Water and Power Associates)
The Oil Well service station was shaped like an oil derrick. (California Historical Society)
The Umbrella Service Station on La Brea Avenue, circa 1930s. (via Water and Power Associates)
A stylish station on Vermont Avenue. (Los Angeles Public Library)
The Calmos station on Hollywood Boulevard had a mosque-like decor, circa 1924. (California State Library)

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