What Should Fill the Pure Oil Building?

Visions for Vacancies: What should fill a filling station? The Pure Oil building dates back to the 1930s, but should it be preserved or redeveloped?

  • Editor's note: I'm writing this before I go on vacation. The Geneva City Council Committee of the Whole was expected to discuss the possible demotion of the Pure Oil Building, 502 W. State St., at a meeting scheduled for Monday, March 26. The discussion or decisions made at that meeting could render this article moot. But unless there is a clear mandate to move forward with the proposed bank drive-through, the question of how the property should be developed will be more pertinent than ever.


There is no pure solution to the problem of how to develop the former Pure Oil Building property at 524 W. State St.

On one hand, you have a building with a limited square footage—not enough to attract most retail businesses. It's a building without insulation and a facade that is falling apart in places. It was built in the 1930s, heated with steam, and its owner, Joe Stanton, says it would cost $360,000 to restore.

And that's if there were a buyer out there who would want to spend that kind of money.

On the other hand, you have one of the few remaining "English cottage" style gas stations built by the Pure Oil Company in the 1920s and '30s. Many of the remaining stations are on national, state and local registers of historic places—and this one was deemed "significant" to the Geneva Historic District and "contributing" to our National Historic District.

This Pure Oil station was built by August Wilson, a well-known Geneva general contractor, who was "complimented on the excellent work done thruout the job," according to a Dec. 3, 1937, edition of The Geneva Republican. (The word "thruout" was spelled that way purposefully, using the old Chicago style popularized by the Chicago Tribune.)

What's proposed right now is to tear down the former service station and attach a bank drive-through to the building next door, the first floor of which would become the home of the St. Charles Bank & Trust. The artist's renderings show a modern drive-through with a historic architectural flavor, landscaping and a good deal of additional parking that would help the downtown area.

Neither the status quo nor the proposed bank drive-through are perfect. Any and all creative solutions are welcomed.

Should the building be preserved, and if so, what would be a practical use for it? Is its present use as the home of The Pure Gardener something that should continue? Is the bank drive-through the best possible solution to a thorny problem? Or is there are better answer, some idea that could save the history and help the property to become more economically viable?

Patch is asking you: What would you like to see in the Pure Oil property? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Terry April 01, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Is there any reason why this issue is being re-evaluated? has some new information come to light since the council made it's decision on 3/26?
Mike Bruno April 01, 2012 at 12:43 PM
It's a very impassioned argument you make Ralph, but it fails awkwardly upon cursory inspection. If business are failing because the city "preferred to keep old, rotted relics of a past", then how do you explain all the business vacancies OUTSIDE the historic district. Everyone is suffering and studies show that historic districts are MORE economically vibrant. Indeed the MORE draconian historic restrictions are, the MORE economically vibrant they are. As to why we are discussing these things here; it's because there are concerned citizens that would like to help our property owners locate tenants. Is that really a bad thing?
Storm Nielsen April 01, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Actually Ralph, from what I was taught (via public school education), the Boston Tea Party was a result of citizens angry over taxes imposed upon them by those who did not represent them: "Taxation Without Representation" As Colin rightly asserts, the issue in question here is about a piece of property in which a citizen purchased that is within a publicly decided upon district in which additional restrictions have been placed. Sadly, Mr Stanton appears to have purchased the property before the current economic downturn occurred. Yet, he should have been aware (and I believe he was) that there were additional restriction upon the property. It is my opinion that Mr Stanton purchased the property with hopes of making additional profits, not for the preservation of the property itself. This seems to be more a case of "Caveat Emptor" than government run amok or lack of reasonable representation. As for the permit for using toilet paper and flushing, i suggest you contact your county representative posthaste.
Donald Kein April 01, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Maybe we can find a buggy wip company or a manual typewriter busness.
Tooth Fairy April 02, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Like your response!


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