At the west end of Main Street on the Nowthen Threshing Show Grounds proudly stands a 1920s cottage style gas station. This station was saved from a bulldozer in a joint effort by NHPA and the city of Milaca, and restored here in time for the August 2005 Threshing Show. It has a colorful history that began somewhere in the 1920s. It was built by George Kirkby and was located on the west end of Milaca on Highway 23.
|1930 photo of Nick Swanson and his gas station|
“Nick” Swanson purchased the station in the 1930 and operated it as a Standard station until about 1974. In around 1994 it was moved to downtown Milaca and was used for the town’s children as a “Santa Claus House” until 2004. That year the city decided to bulldoze the house to make room for new development. Fortunately for NHPA , the news reached one of our members and the club asked if we could purchase it. The demolition was halted and the building was deeded to NHPA.
Moving the building from Milaca to Nowthen was not an easy project. It was extremely over height and could not be moved in one piece because of the power lines along the route. The top of the roof was removed, thanks to some very skilled and ingenious members, and both sections took the trip on a trailer and a hay wagon to its new location that October, where it was stored in a pole barn over the winter.
Reconstruction began with gusto the following spring. Two concrete slabs were poured where the station and two Standard gas pumps would stand. With the labor of a great crew and the aid of a crane the building was safely lowered and then secured to the spot. The old shingles were removed, new ones went on in their place, and the building was painted white with red trim to resemble the original “look.” The labor was intensive to finish the pump island. It took many volunteer hours from electricians, pipe fitters, plumbers, crane operators, painters, welders, carpenters and cement finishers to complete the work on the three foot by twelve foot structure. Two original and used Butler gas pumps were ordered. They arrived and were installed in early August.
|restored gas station after completion in 2005|
Vintage signs and artifacts were found or donated to help keep the station as authentic as possible. Thanks to the stories of a former Milaca resident, who worked at the station in his high school years, the club has been able to reconstruct the atmosphere inside the station to almost a perfect replica. In 2007 a hydraulic rack was constructed on one side of the building and a tanker truck was donated and restored.
Many “man hours” of hard work by a handful of dedicated members have made this project a lasting and credible icon that will be a representation of days gone by.
Take a look at the photo gallery showing the moving and restoration of the gas station.