If you had been to journey on Route 66 in the early 1900s, you in all probability handed the Threatt Filling Station, a family-owned gas station for Black vacationers traversing the well-known route from Chicago to Southern California.
But after closing in the Seventies, the station finally fell into disrepair. Now the Threatt family is trying to revitalize and protect it.
Allen Threatt Sr. [Photo: courtesy of the Threatt family]The Threatt Filling Station, positioned close to Luther, Oklahoma, was a place the place Black vacationers might replenish their tanks and seize one thing to eat. The property, which was initially 160 acres, finally expanded to additionally embody a farm, a discipline for Negro League baseball video games, an outside stage, and a bar for these wanting to bop the jitterbug. Allen Threatt Sr. built the station round 1915, and it continued to function till it closed in the Seventies, in accordance with Ed Threatt, one in all Allen’s grandsons. Ed Threatt and different kinfolk are actually working to revive the historic property.
“It’s a part of Black history within the state of Oklahoma,” Ed Threatt stated. “For him to acquire 160 acres of land in the Jim Crow era, that’s no small feat.”
Ulysses Grant Threatt [Photo: courtesy of the Threatt family]Oklahoma was house to a variety of sunset cities, in accordance with Lynda Ozan, deputy state historic preservation officer in Oklahoma. These had been communities the place Black individuals weren’t welcome after sundown—so in the event that they had been touring by way of, they’d should preserve driving at evening. Places like the Threatt Filling Station provided respite for Black vacationers alongside Route 66.
“In a state that was racially segregated, had many sundown towns, had neighborhoods that were deeded with restrictions on racial ownership, the Threatt family had a successful farm and business through the 20th century,” she stated. “As a location for Black travelers, the Threatt Filling Station was critical.”
The Threatt family homesteaded in the space when land was opened in 1889 and land allotments had been established. They raised crops on the farm, offered sandstone from the quarry, after which opened and operated the filling station and its related companies. But in accordance with Ozan, the property’s significance reverberated far past Oklahoma.
The station circa 1995 [Photo: National Register of Historic Places/U.S. National Park Service]“From the Negro baseball teams playing games on their field to famous musicians and actors stopping at this facility on their way to and from California, the national significance of this location cannot be emphasized enough,” Ozan stated.
Jennifer Sandy, discipline director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, agreed. She famous that a 1939 newspaper clipping signifies the Threatt Filling Station might have been the only “Negro station” in the U.S. at the time, and it was doubtless the only Black-owned filling station on Route 66.
“[The] impressive variety of services demonstrates a creative entrepreneurial spirit to succeed at a time when being Black and operating a successful business on Route 66 was not common,” Sandy stated in an e-mail.
[Photo: Rhys Martin/courtesy Oklahoma Route 66 Association]In 2021, the Threatt Filling Station made the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered Historic Places list. Ozan stated it’s a huge step in getting the property nationwide recognition. According to the National Trust, in its 34-year historical past greater than 300 locations have been listed; in that point, fewer than 5% of listed websites have been misplaced.
“The complex represents the power of Black entrepreneurship and family stewardship through generations. It helps illuminate important but underrepresented stories of life along iconic Route 66,” Sandy stated. Since the first checklist was issued in 1988, it has helped to avoid wasting a various vary of locations that inform the American story, together with Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay, Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, the hovering TWA Terminal at New York’s JFK Airport, and cultural landscapes like Bears Ears in Utah.
[Photo: Rhys Martin/courtesy Oklahoma Route 66 Association]Because the Threatt Filling Station was family-owned, it didn’t should reply to a mum or dad firm when it got here to design, Ozan stated. That makes it much more distinctive from different gas stations in the state, significantly because it used native stone quarried from a close by farm. “The use of locally sourced stone and its specific patterning . . . make this an unusual design [and] type across Oklahoma,” she stated.
[Photo: courtesy of the Threatt family]But even with its architectural and historic significance, cash is a giant hurdle for restoration and preservation. The Threatt family raised funds for a historic construction report, which estimated that refurbishing the facility would price round $200,000, not together with issues like electrical and plumbing. This was earlier than COVID-19 elevated the prices of supplies and labor, Ed Threatt famous.
Though the Threatt Family is still raising funds, they hope to begin restoration work this 12 months, finally turning the property into an interpretive middle for guests to see and expertise historical past firsthand, purchase souvenirs, and find out about an necessary a part of Route 66 and Oklahoma historical past.
“It’s not just about us,” stated Ed Threatt, who nonetheless lives in the space. “It’s about Black people in general. It’s about the white people who also support and agree that this is something that’s important.”