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WRIGHT GAS STATION
Associated PressAn architectural rendering shows a Frank Lloyd Wright gas station that is being built by the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum in Buffalo, N.Y.

Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Frank Lloyd Wright knew the gas station would have a place of prominence in the American landscape.

The progressive architect even designed a couple, including one in 1927 meant for a Buffalo street corner. But money problems and a divorce got in the way, and Wright never saw his filling station take shape.

Today, about a mile from its original location, the station is finally going up - solely for its value as a tourist attraction.

It'll have two fireplaces, a second-story observation deck and a women's restroom, a revolutionary idea 75 years ago. But don't expect to fill up: Its overhead gravity-fed tanks would never meet modern fire codes.

The project is the brainchild of James Sandoro, who secured the rights to build the station last spring.

Scheduled for completion next June, the station will be a companion to the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum that Sandoro opened two years ago. The station and a 40,000-square-foot expansion of museum combined will cost about $7 million, being raised through donations.

"You have gas station collectors, Frank Lloyd Wright collectors, car collectors who are all so enthused about this," Sandoro said before a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday. "It's a little station with a giant impact."

One-time Wright apprentice Anthony Puttnam and Buffalo architect Patrick Mahoney will see that the 1,000-square-foot station is built to Wright's exact specifications, a challenging task because the plans were never completed.

"Wright's preliminary plans have to be made into something people can walk through," Mahoney said. "I'm confident it can be done."

Only one other Wright gas station exists, a working Phillips 66 station in Cloquet, Minn., built in 1956.

"Watch the little gas station …," Wright wrote in 1930. "Wherever service stations are located naturally, these so often ugly and seemingly insignificant features will survive and expand."

Wright (1867-1959) designed the Buffalo station for the former Tydol Oil company. When finished, it will have two 45-foot poles that Wright called "totems," holding a Tydol gasoline sign and a colorful checkerboard plaza.

Over the past year, Sandoro has uncovered dozens of letters and several versions of the plans, with changes to the roof and other features.

"There's probably more written about this thing than anybody ever dreamed," he said.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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