Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Pure Oil Station Mystery

Posted By on Sat, Dec 13, 2008 at 9:08 PM

4021/1242007777-pure-madison_mclean.jpg Study this picture very carefully (click on it to enlarge the image), because I want to see if you can solve a mystery.

Those half-dozen of you who read this blog, or my column in Memphis magazine, on a regular basis know that I have recently talked about a couple of old Pure Oil Stations in Memphis. One was on Madison; the other on South Front Street. Both were built in the 1930s in the company’s distinctive “English Cottage” style. You should also know, if you had been paying attention, that the Lauderdale Library recently purchased the photo archives of all the Pure Oil Stations erected in Memphis from the 1930s through the 1960s.

So what I want to know is: Where was this station?

You can see that it’s the same “cottage” style architecture, but it’s considerably larger than the other Pure stations I’ve discussed. For one thing, it has TWO garage bays instead of one, and it has old “clock-face” gas pumps on two sides of the station, instead of just one grouping in the front. There is no overhead canopy, like the station on Madison. Look very closely at the photo, and you’ll see that someone has inked in lines around the window and door at the far right, and they also put three “X’s” across the pumps in front — possibly indicating changes to the existing building.

Other clues: a large two-story house in the background, and — most intriguing of all — some kind of railroad or trolley tracks in the foreground.

This much I’ll tell you. On the back of the photo is a scribbled notation: “Constructed March 1935.” There’s also the address. So yes, I know where this place is.

But the question is: Do you?

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