The Martin Complex and the Greycliff mansion on Lake Erie are among original Wright-designed structures built in and around Buffalo that are open to the public. But the 1927 Tydol gasoline station existed only in plans until it was completed in 2014 at the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum.
Not only is it unique in its authentic adherence to the Wright design, it is also “viewer friendly” as it was constructed inside the museum, making it an attraction regardless of weather. The Collector visited on a blustery day with temperatures in the teens, making the indoor location essential for a detailed look.
The design was clearly “form and function” as the building is impressive to view with its copper roof and tall “totems” leading up to a stylized Tydol logo. Wright envisioned the station as a place for customers to relax and socialize while their cars were serviced. It featured a raised waiting room with a view and modern bathrooms, including electric hand dryers.
Recognizing that filling gas tanks meant pumping by hand at the time, so his design envisioned supply tanks built into the roof of the station so the gasoline would feed by gravity through decorative tanks above the cars.
Envisioned as a 24-hour station, Wright designed a staff area with a wood-burning fireplace as well as a room with a cot for the attendant.
Clearly Wright’s unconventional design form did not shortchange function. However, what apparently what wasn’t included in the plan was an agreement on the price for the design. When Wright demanded about three-times what the company had budgeted for the project, including construction, for the design alone, the design was never built.
A visit to the museum, which remains primarily a car museum, offers a look at numerous beautiful automobiles including the luxury Pierce-Arrow, which was produced in Buffalo, along with many other nameplates familiar to automotive history buffs. Bicycles (also made by Pierce-Arrow), motorcycles and displays of car-related accessories are included.
Along with the Frank Lloyd Wright homes that can be visited, two other Wright projects that were built after his time, a boat house and the Blue Sky Mausoleum are part of Buffalo’s Wright history.