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URBAN HIKE

Service Station Transformations
updated: Oct 06, 2012, 11:15 AM

By The Urban Hikers (Peter Hartmann & Stacey Wright)

We've deiced to focus on old service stations that are no longer in service, partly out of a feeling of nostalgia and partly for the sport of it. Gas stations have changed dramatically over the years, and it's not just about gas prices. It's also about the service. We both recall childhood days when our parents pulled into one of the dozens of Santa Barbara service station and we heard those classic words, "fill ‘er up". Those were the days before filing the tank nearly broke the bank. You usually sat in the car while the kid filling your tank washed the windows and checked the oil and, if you were lucky, when your parents wrapped up the purchase they got either trading stamps or a drinking glass. Those were the good old days for sure.

We start our Montecito/SB/Goleta tour with two service station sites that no longer serve any commercial purpose at all. The first is in Montecito, the other is a "classic" out near Ellwood.

The Upper Village of Montecito still has one gas station, where there used to be two. In 1993 the Union '76 station which had been a village staple was dedicated as a lovely little park called "The Corner Green". Initially the project generated quite a bit of controversy, but now it seems to be a well-loved feature of the Upper Village. In the spirit of full disclosure we must admit that Peter's dental office overlooks this one-time gas station, and he much prefers the beauty of this quaint little park.

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Next stop, is the 1980 movie set for The Postman Always Rings Twice staring Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, Angelica Houston and Christopher Lloyd. At the time the filmmakers decided on this location, the service station, once the Barnsdall-Rio Grande had been long abandoned. Opened in 1929, the gas station was build a year after the company drilled their first Ellwood oil well. In 1930, a restaurant called "Wheelers" was added for travelers on the main coast route. We believe Wheeler's was a clever name for the diner, rather than a family name, but this is pure speculation on our parts. If you know more, please let us know.

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Of course we couldn't possibly photograph and write about every single converted gas station in the Santa Barbara area, and we're sure you have a favorite that we've missed. For that we apologize, and encourage you to document and share your favorite or favorites with Edhat readers. What follows are the places we've photographed along the way.

Hands down, the busiest repurposed gas station we've encountered is The Daily Grind; we LOVE that they kept the Shell sign, and simply brought it indoors. You'll notice that we took a photo of the front door of most of these places, along with a front and side view, to show off the architectural features as well as possible.

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Not surprisingly restaurants and coffeehouses occupy many an old service stations around town. In addition to The Daily Grind, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at the De la Vina wye is also an old gas station.

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So are Boucatini (State and Haley), China Palace (Coast Village Rd.), and Derf's (De La Vina and Mission). As you can see from the old photo, Boucatini used to be home of a Signal Oil service station.

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Markets also make good use of old service stations, and evidenced by The Bottle Sop (Coast Village and Middle Rd)

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Mac Kenzie Market (State and Calle Palo Colorado)

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and Mac's Grog ‘N' Groc (Haley & Anacapa Streets)

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Our "one of a kind" conversions include St. Paul Cleaners (Bath near Cottage Grove and the 101)

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Santa Barbara Locksmith (Santa Barbara and Ortega Streets)

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Santa Barbara Audio Stereo & Wireless (State & Las Positas)

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Mastercraft Kitchens (Haley and Laguna Streets) (Insert pics # 37-39)

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and Coast Village Persian Rug Co. (Coast Village and Hermosillo).

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A couple of the old gas stations are home to more than one business. Boucattini shares its digs with Drayton Automotive (State & Haley).

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Ayers Repairs shares it's space with Sabrina Full Service Salon and Boutique.

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and a place on Coast Village Rd. has a whopping three businesses in what had previously been a busy filling station. This little gem of a building is home to Legacy, Peregrine Galleries and Lily. Who would have guessed it used to provide service to cars and travelers along the coast route?

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It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that many an old gas station has been transformed into an auto repair shop. Our favorite old service station is probably one that few have noticed, given its location at the bottom of De La Vina Street near the 101 (De La Vina & Cottage Grove Ln). Home of International Autohaus, it appears to be sorely in need of a little TLC. We think the old gal is worthy of a minor facelift, and hope she'll be preserved well into the future.

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Some of the other auto repair places are Kennedy's, across from the Co. Bowl.

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J & S Garage on East Valley Rd. and Live Oaks...we've always called it "Jay's."

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Ayer's Repairs at the corner of Chapala and W. Victoria Streets.

Drayton Automotive on Haley near State.

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Perhaps the most surprising discovery we made when we started studying converted gas stations is that we have two that now serve as Granite stores. One, Brasil, is on the corner of Chapala and Victoria Streets (Insert pic #57 )

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and the other, Home Design and Granite is on Milpas at Montecito Street.

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Who would have thought?

Again, we realize our list of "repurposed" service stations is far from exhaustive and would love to hear about the old gas stations you've seen around town.

As always we encourage you to go out and explore our marvelous town on foot, keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all, expect the unexpected.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 328560 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 11:32 AM

Very cool article, but it's Angelica Huston not Houston!

 

 COMMENT 328566 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 11:56 AM

Wow, I never realized there were so many of them. I suppose back when you were lucky to get 15 mpg all those stations were needed.

 

 COMMENT 328571P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 12:09 PM

missed one...on East Valley Rd. Loved mechanic there for 30 plus years!

 

 COMMENT 328598 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 01:19 PM

The Buenos Aires Restaurant, across from the Arlington Theater, used to be a gas station. It was sold and escrowed in 1993. (longest escrow I ever had, but rewarding to watch that beautification of that property.}

In regard to the historical Ellwood Station, there is a short history booklet by Dr Gary Coombs and Phyliss Olsen. I believe that Gary has the office of the Institute for Amercan Research at the old Goleta Depot Museum on Los Carneros.

 

 COMMENT 328642 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 02:59 PM

Thank you for this post! What a great armchair tour of our city on an often overlooked topic. I will certainly pass by these landmarks more enlightened.

 

 COMMENT 328648 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 03:11 PM

Love the series! You covered quite a few stations but one that was omitted was Java Station on Hollister Ave. near Modoc Road. Interesting trivia about Java Station is that it plays the roll of a fast food chicken restaurant (The Chicky Chick) on the Disney Channel television series, "Good Luck Charlie".

 

 COMMENT 328650 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 03:17 PM

Then there is the former station on Cliff that is now Mesa Produce. We buy all our produce there. A great local biz.

 

 COMMENT 328666 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 03:47 PM

More to come, lots of empty stations around. One at La Cumbre Rd x La Cumbre Lane (across from Chevron) comes to mind. How long has that been for sale any way?

Don't forget about the "soon-to-be" McDonald's at the corner of Calle Real x Turnpike. True they didn't keep the building, but it's been for sale forevvvver too.

Love the article, nice job. Daily Grind and Derfs, who knew?

 

 COMMENT 328702P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 06:10 PM

JJ's Liquor, Castillo and Montecito streets.

 

 COMMENT 328705P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 06:31 PM

Fantastic article - many thanks. As an Alzheimer here, I'd forgotten about these stations, but surely do enjoy the present reminder.

 

 YIN YANG agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 06:37 PM

Java Station was a liquor store in the 70's? Hi-Time? That would be post-gas station. We used to tie our horses in the parking lot and go in for snacks.

 

 COMMENT 328718 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 07:19 PM

@ YIN YANG - i think you are right, and before hi-time it was miratti's liquor store...thats going back to the 50's and 60's.

 

 AQUAHOLIC agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-06 07:35 PM

@YIN YANG...Yes, Hi-Time liquors is where I met and fell in love with my beloved cat 'Russell', I was new in town and he jumped in my car. Some louse had cut all his whiskers off and he wasn't cared for at all...we spent the next 18 years together...still miss him.

Sorry for the rant...a lot of great memories, thanks UH's, you've done it again...love reading this and seeing all the great photos.

 

 RESIDENT agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-07 11:25 AM

Although not re-purposed yet, the fenced lot that used to hold a station before the round-about on Hot Springs/Coast Village Road (Vons Center).

 

 COMMENT 328979 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-07 04:54 PM

Fun!!I grew up on Hermosillo & remember the two service stations at the bottom of the hill. Dick Dickman owned one.

 

 YIN YANG agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-07 05:18 PM

Aqua, that's a great off-topic! And it probably was Miratti's. Or was that Ontare & State, next to Vices & Spices? Ooops, not a gas station. But Blue worked there as he started V&Spices. I used to ride my bike there to spend my dime allowance on a Snickers bar.

Did Dick Dickman have a son named Ronnie? I mean, Ron?

 

 COMMENT 329217 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-08 10:23 AM

My grandfather owned the gas station (turned China Palace) in Montecito. He told me that it was the first gas station in town, and he used to pump gas for some visiting actors.

 

 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2012-10-08 05:34 PM

Coast Village Rd had lots of stations because it was the Coast Highway before 101. A poster said you missed one on E. Valley in Montecito. I lived there in the 40s, 50s, 60s, into the 70s; can't figure out, or remember, where it could have been. The Union where the Village Green is used to give "Montecito tune-ups" to cars old ladies brought in. One of the workers would drive it to Ventura and back on the freeway. The car never was stretched out by the owner, just driven around Montecito. Love all your pictures, thanks for the work and research.

 

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