On our way back from the Harvest Days in Dwight ,and the fun Basset Waddle,(yes we did see Basset Hounds waddling in a parade!) my friend Carol McGrath and I stopped in Odell, Illinois. We were on a mission to see the Standard Oil Gasoline station on Historic Route 66. I was so glad it was open. I had heard about this little Standard Oil Gasoline Station, but had not had a chance to stop here before on the Route 66 loop! The Standard Oil Gasoline Station stands on the original 1926 – 1943 alignment of Route 66 in Odell. The 1944 – 1977 alignment is just behind the station but access to the “newer” road is several blocks away.
The Standard Oil Gasoline Station History
According to the brochure I picked up, “In 1932, Patrick O’Donnell, a contractor, purchased a small 200′ by 60′ parcel of land on the southwest side of Odell in Livingston County, Illinois. This land was on that great “MOTHER ROAD”, Route 66. His plan was to build a gas station which he would lease to his son. And build it he did, using an old 1916 Standard Oil of Ohio design.”
The Standard Oil Gasoline Station had several different managers between 1940 and 1952. They sold Standard Oil Gasoline Station and later Sinclair products. They added bays which made them much more commercial since the competition really picked up with several stations along Route 66. Robert Close leased the station, then bought it from the O’Donnell estate in 1967. When I-55 came along in 1977 they were able to keep it going.
Robert Close had moved his family into the building next door that had been made into a house from a café. They lived here until a fire destroyed it in the 1970’s. Robert Close offered body work which in the brochure they state, “kept him going while others had failed. He continued the body work until the Village of Odell purchased the station in the spring of 1999 for the purpose of historic restoration.”
Touring the Standard Oil Gasoline Station
Carol and I enjoyed walking through the old station. It is definitely a blast of the past with the old pumps and everything like the old days inside and out. There are souvenirs and a vintage motorcycle that has been donated on display inside as well.
Old oil cans are on display as well as tools. Carol and I enjoyed the old Coca Cola machine!
In 1995 the Route 55 Association of Preservation Committee took interest in the station. They began procedures to save it and nominated it to the National Register of Historic Places. It was awarded on the register in November 9, 1997!
The Odell Tourism and Community Development Board and the Route 66 Association of Illinois plus others got together to raise funds. According to the website, “In 1997, the station was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Then, thanks to a collaborative effort, the Illinois Route 66 Association, the Village of Odell, Illinois State Historic Preservation Office, the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, and Hampton Inn Landmarks restored the station to its former glory.”
The 1953 Camper
Besides the cool gas station, next to the station is a retro camper. It is a 1953 camper that was donated by Sandra Grey in memory of her father Frank Oliver Grey who had worked at the station at one time. The camper is great fun and reminded me a bit of the one that my Uncle John and Aunt Ellen Howlett had owned. I got a chance to travel in it with my cousin Cheri when we were kids.
You can go in the camper and look around. A young man was kind enough to take a picture of me and Carol sitting at the old time table. His dad had an amazing cool car fitting with the times!
After leaving and looking I have seen there are other things I missed. There was a former Subway tunnel and a Mobil Station now closed. Carol and I did see the glorious St. Paul Catholic Church near the Standard Oil Gasoline Station where they do still have services.
For more information abut Odell, the phone number for the Tourism and Community Development is 815-998-2133.