Video: Saving Architectural Onomatopoeia

Posted on: January 28th, 2009 by Sarah Heffern 4 Comments

It's a gray, icy day here in Washington, DC, so I thought it was a good time to share a video of a cheery, bright preservation success story -- a former gas station in North Carolina that is now the home of the northwest regional office of our statewide partner, Preservation North Carolina. This may not sound all that exciting, but it's a gas station that's the building equivalent of onomatopoeia -- a Shell station shaped like a shell. (My officemate, who has been in the preservation game a few years longer than I have, says this is called a "duck" in the architectural world. Is that true?)

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Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class.

General, Modern Architecture

4 Responses

  1. BWChicago

    January 28, 2009

    Yes, Duck as popularized by Robert Venturi in Learning from Las Vegas

  2. M. Linda Massler

    January 29, 2009

    I wonder if the 7 shell stations were constructed by Quality Oil & Reliable Tank Lines, a privately owned corporation started in Winston-Salem NC (Forsyth county) in 1929.

    The company is still privately held and continues to be a viable business enterprise. The company builds and operates gasoline stations, both with and without mini-marts, in several Southern states as well as hotels. It also has a heating oil business, tankline trucking business for oil and gasoline product delivery, a propane gas business & develops real estate for the home building market.

  3. Aaron Marcavitch

    January 29, 2009

    Yup – its a “duck.” Learning from Las Vegas is your ticket to that particular idea. Good to see some roadside stuff cropping up here – I am thrilled to see the effort of the NTHP to push the modern/recent past preservation and perhaps as a roadside/industrial type of guy I will get to see a NTHP campaign to save these types of places…

    Great video.

  4. Barbara Campagna

    January 31, 2009

    Yes, the 7 stations were designed and constructed by Quality Oil & Reliable Tank Lines of Winston-Salem who were the local distributer for Shell’s motor oil products. Quality Oil is still in operation and has been supporters of the restoration of the “Shell”, currently operated by Preservation North Carolina. (as per John Larson, Vice President for Restoration at Old Salem Museums & Gardens, the “restorer” in the video.) The “inventors” of the Shell are credited as J.H. Glenn, Jr. & Burt L. Bennett, who were the proprietors and operators of Quality Oil. Patent drawings are available in the Patent Office in Washington, DC.