LIVING AT HOME: architect's dream realized in CLOQUET
The great architect Frank Lloyd Wright believed that gas stations would play an important role in his dream of a utopian city. He began designing service stations in 1928, and his dream came closest to being realized in Cloquet.
Wright designed the service station, located at the intersection of Highways 45 and 33 in Cloquet, in 1955. He designed it for Cloquet resident Ray Lindholm. Wright had recently designed a home for Lindholm, and when he learned Lindholm was in the service station business, the architect persuaded his client to let him design a gas station.
"Basically, Wright convinced my grandfather to let him do the project," said Cloquet's Mike McKinney. "The station ended up being very similar to designs Wright had done 30 years earlier."
Today the station is still used as a service station. McKinney said his family had considered turning the station into a museum or some other hybrid, but at this point they plan to continue using it as a station.
"It still functions just fine," said McKinney. "It has really stood the test of time."
Wright saw the gas station as much more than just functional. He wrote in his biography, "The roadside service station may be in embryo the future city distribution center. Each station may grow into a well-designed, convenient neighborhood distribution center naturally developing as meeting place, restaurant, restroom..."
Wright even gave considerable thought to the design of the stations and incorporated them into his utopian Broadacre City.
Wright's original designs called for gas to be supplied not from today's conventional pumps, but from flexible overhead hoses, leading some to believe that Wright considered petroleum to be the urban equivalent of cow's milk. That design idea was never realized. It was proposed for Cloquet, but denied because it failed to meet the fire code.
The final design was a three-level steel and cement building with a glass-walled observation deck with a 32-foot canopy. An illuminated pylon reaches 60 feet in the air. The building was intended to act as its own advertising and it succeeded.
It still succeeds today. Postcards featuring the gas station continue to be sold around Cloquet and visitors still seek it out when they come to the area. The gas station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
"I think it means a lot to the community," McKinney said. "There's a lot of pride in it because of its uniqueness. We're known for it. It's still a service station to us, but we always have people wanting to stop and take a look at it."