In case you have 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.
However after closing in the Nineteen Seventies, the station ultimately 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, situated close to Luther, Oklahoma, was a place the place Black vacationers may replenish their tanks and seize one thing to eat. The property, which was initially 160 acres, ultimately expanded to additionally embrace a farm, a subject for Negro League baseball video games, an outside stage, and a bar for these wanting to bounce the jitterbug. Allen Threatt Sr. built the station round 1915, and it continued to function till it closed in the Nineteen Seventies, in keeping with Ed Threatt, one in every of Allen’s grandsons. Ed Threatt and different kinfolk are actually working to revive the historic property.
“It’s a a part of Black historical past inside the state of Oklahoma,” Ed Threatt stated. “For him to amass 160 acres of land in the Jim Crow period, that’s no small feat.”
Ulysses Grant Threatt [Photo: courtesy of the Threatt family]Oklahoma was dwelling to a variety of sunset cities, in keeping with Lynda Ozan, deputy state historic preservation officer in Oklahoma. These have been communities the place Black individuals weren’t welcome after sundown—so in the event that they have been touring via, they’d must maintain driving at evening. Locations like the Threatt Filling Station supplied respite for Black vacationers alongside Route 66.
“In a state that was racially segregated, had many sunset cities, had neighborhoods that have been deeded with restrictions on racial possession, the Threatt family had a profitable farm and enterprise via the twentieth century,” she stated. “As a location for Black vacationers, the Threatt Filling Station was vital.”
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, bought sandstone from the quarry, after which opened and operated the filling station and its related companies. However in keeping 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 groups enjoying video games on their subject to well-known musicians and actors stopping at this facility on their solution to and from California, the nationwide significance of this location can’t be emphasised sufficient,” Ozan stated.
Jennifer Sandy, subject director for the Nationwide Belief 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 seemingly the only Black-owned filling station on Route 66.
“[The] spectacular number of providers demonstrates a artistic entrepreneurial spirit to succeed at a time when being Black and working a profitable enterprise on Route 66 was not widespread,” Sandy stated in an e-mail.
[Photo: Rhys Martin/courtesy Oklahoma Route 66 Association]In 2021, the Threatt Filling Station made the Nationwide Belief for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered Historic Places list. Ozan stated it’s a large step in getting the property nationwide recognition. In line with the Nationwide Belief, 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 complicated represents the energy of Black entrepreneurship and family stewardship via generations. It helps illuminate necessary however underrepresented tales of life alongside iconic Route 66,” Sandy stated. Since the first listing was issued in 1988, it has helped to save lots of a numerous 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]As a result of the Threatt Filling Station was family-owned, it didn’t must reply to a guardian 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 usage of regionally sourced stone and its particular patterning . . . make this an uncommon design [and] sort throughout Oklahoma,” she stated.
[Photo: courtesy of the Threatt family]However 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.
Although 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 nearly us,” stated Ed Threatt, who nonetheless lives in the space. “It’s about Black individuals generally. It’s about the white individuals who additionally assist and agree that this is one thing that’s necessary.”