Osterman’s Shell Station, 1932
The Hualapai Indians nominated the Peach Springs Shell Station for the National Register of Historic Places and were accepted in 2009. Recently, it was placed on the register. The Hualapai Indian tribe owns the station these days and plans to restore it and start pumping gas again. They received a great from the National Park Service to do so. However, Oscar Ostermann built the gas station in 1932, not his brother John in 1927. At the same time Oscar built the new gas station, he built the Peach Springs Auto Court next door.
Beatrice Boyd, whose husband, Frank, worked for Oscar and who purchased the Peach Springs Auto Court from Oscar in 1938, told me the story:
From Along Route 66:
“Swedish sailor John Osterman wanted to captain his own ship. In 1914 he set sail around the world, as was required by the Swedish Merchant Marine, but on a German ship. His ship was interned at Santa Rosalia, Mexico on the Baja Peninsula at the beginning of World War I. He jumped ship, ferried across the Gulf of California, made his way to Nogales, crossed the border into Arizona, and followed the railroad north to Phoenix where he went to work in a dairy. He hated the work. When the dairy shipped its cows, and John north, to summer pastures near Flagstaff, he took off and hopped a train to San Francisco with the intention of going back to sea. The railroad cops threw him off at Peach Springs where the largest body of water was a dry wash.
“He stayed, worked on a ranch, became a citizen, and was drafted when the United States went to war. After World War I, he returned to Peach Springs, opened a small gas station, and quickly developed a reputation for honest work. He would tow a car day or night. He stocked Ford parts, particularly springs–six were delivered daily from Los Angeles for folks who busted theirs on the rough road. He persuaded his brother, Oscar, to join him, sold him the gas station in 1925, and moved to Kingman. A year later the highway department designated the road in front of the gas station U.S. Highway 66, and then moved it a block north six year later. Oscar needed a new building: he built a jagged Alamo.
“He poured a two-story concrete frame, four bays wide, and filled it with concrete block, formed to look like quarried stone. By 1920 the reinforced concrete frame had come into general use in large industrial buildings–flour mills and factories, but it was unusual to see one on such a small scale.[Endnote #25] He housed his office and work room in the west half of the building and the garage in the east half. He provided a second-story sleeping room for the help behind the stepped facade over the garage. He finished it with a wide, spreading canopy that covered the pumps.” Photograph, 1998.
In 1998 when I was making a trip along Route 66 for my book, Along Route 66, I checked into the station to get permission from the Hualapai to drive across their lands and down into the Grand Canyon.
It was a rugged, but worthwhile drive. Peach Springs received its name after farmers established peach orchards in the bottom of the canyon.
Here is a list of other Historic Sites on Route 66.
Filed under: Fine Art Photography, Photography, Quinta Scott, Route 66 Photographs Tagged: | Gulf of California, John Ostermann, National Register of Historic Sites, Oscar Ostermann, Photography, Route66 photographs