Gas was just as important to those early Mother Road travelers as it is to the road journeyer of today. But back then, it was different – a lot different. Before 1910, there was little need for gas stations, as automobile ownership was only held by wealthy hobbyists, who were required to obtain fuel from the local kerosene refinery. Later, after Henry Ford perfected mass production in 1908, vehicle prices were more affordable for the masses. To adjust to the demand, gas was then sold by the bucketful at general stores, liveries, hardware stores, and repair shops. Arduously, the gas was poured into buckets and then funneled into their gas tanks.
However, that all changed when the first gas pump was invented. In no time, shed-like structures housing a gas pump or two began to appear along the roads. Before long, the term “Filling Station” was adopted for these many curbside businesses.
By 1910, gas stations began building bigger structures that included offices. The earliest companies, such as Shell and Standard Oil, began to take advantage of the space on the side of the buildings, painting their logos and names across the side. By the 1920s, gas station buildings often included canopies added to protect their customers from the heat or rain.
After Route 66 began to barrel through the eight states, gas stations started offering repairs and other services, and the structures were enlarged again as service bays were added to the buildings. These structures continued to evolve over the years to where they are today, sometimes no bigger than those early structures.
During the same year that Route 66 began to be built, the Whiting Brothers discovered that they could easily construct a profitable gas station with just a little lumber from their father’s mill. Initially founded in Saint John, Arizona, in 1926, Whiting Brothers Station soon became a familiar sight all along Route 66 and other Southwest areas.
Extremely profitable, the brothers continued to expand their empire, adding souvenir shops, cafes, and Whiting Brothers Motor Inns to many of their stations. For years and years, the Whiting Brothers’ businesses were a staple along the Mother Road, along with Stuckey’s, Burma-Shave signs, and Indian Joe’s Trading Posts.
Alas, along with many other profitable businesses along Route 66, the Whiting Brothers ended in the 1990s.
Today, except for one remaining Whiting Brothers Station in Moriarty, New Mexico, and a few buildings that have been utilized for other business purposes, all that’s left of the Whiting empire are its fading yellow and orange signs and crumbling buildings. Soon, these will most likely disappear, ending another chapter of Route 66 history.
Listed below are the remains of Whiting Brothers Stations and Motels and what is known about them today.
Bellemont – Just after World War II, the Whiting Brothers established a gas station with wood from powder boxes taken from the Navajo Army Depot to build the motel section of the establishment. Today, these ruins are slowly returning to the earth. At Bellemont, go off on the abandoned section of old Route 66, east of the freeway entrance, to see the remains of the old Whiting Brothers cottage park.
Flagstaff– A Whiting Brothers Motor Hotel in Flagstaff was once located at 2134 E. Santa Fe. What has become of this building?
Holbrook – We’ve got a vintage postcard of a Whiting Brothers Deluxe Motel in Holbrook. It no longer exists, but has it become something else? A reader on Facebook tells us it was across from the Wigwam Motel and is now a residence.
Winslow – Once, it was the first thing you would see when entering Winslow from the east. It was open for business in 1996, but four years later, it was closed and boarded up. It has since been razed.
There was also a Whiting Brothers Motor Hotel in Winslow, but we have not found what has become of it.
Yucca – Once a large complex complete with a station and a motel, all that’s left today are the signs and a large empty parking lot.
Barstow – There was once a Whiting Brothers Motel here; however, we could not locate any photographs. Can anyone give an update as to what became of this location?
Newberry Springs – Complete with its old gas pumps outside today with its gas rate set at 33 cents a gallon, this station closed in 1968. Now owned by Mary McGee, who has lived on Route 66 since 1977, she hopes to restore the old station as a museum and gift shop. This location is thought to be the only Whiting Brothers Station still standing in California.
Gallup – There was once a Whiting Brothers Motel in Gallup, as the postcard below indicates.
Additionally, there is a Thriftway gas station with a sign pole bearing “Free Coffee,” which indicates that this might have been a former Whiting Brothers station.
McCartys/San Fidel – Located between these old Route 66 towns was once a large Whiting Brothers complex, including a motel and a gas station. Though abandoned long ago due to fire damage, the old gas station remains. Where the motel once stood is nothing but a parking lot and debris. However, its majestic sign continues to stand.
Moriarty – Though no longer owned by the Whiting Brothers, this old station is the only one that continues to operate, thanks to Sal Lucero, a lifelong employee of Whiting Brothers. In the 1980s, Lucero bought the station from the Whiting Brothers and never changed the name. Today it continues to stand as a tribute to the heydays of Route 66.
Tucumcari – Now the Hotel Americana in Tucumcari, New Mexico, this vintage motel was once part of the Whiting Brothers’ Empire.
Shamrock – Now occupying what was once an old Whiting Brothers gas station is the Sugar Shack. While you can’t get gas here anymore, you can enjoy a donut and cappuccino inside this vintage building.
We got gas from these guys several times. I remember one in California where we got caught in a sandstorm at 3:00 a.m., and the attendant wouldn’t come out and pump the gas. It took all the paint off our car! The visibility was 0! The Newberry one looks like it too. – George Senda, Concord, California, November 2005
My parents and several aunts and uncles managed those stations for Art and Earnest Whiting. I remember both of them growing up as a child. Bob Frost and Merle Farr were managers for them who basically oversaw operations for the brothers. As a child, I lived in every town along old hwy 66 in Arizona as my mom and dad managed these stations and motels. From Holbrook to Yucca. And Continental Divide New Mexico. My family has many home movies taken of these locations when they were up and running in there prime during the 70s. Its a shame to see them turning to rubble as they are today. My dad passed about three years ago and upon reading your article brought back many fond memories of my childhood, so thank you for sharing. – David Hopper, Tecumseh, Oklahoma, October 2014.