Dupont Circle's Fancy Gas Station

By Elliot Carter

The Snack Shop in Dupont Circle is an architectural oddity. Originally named the Embassy Gulf Service Station, it was built in 1937 by the Gulf Refining Company and purchased by Chevron in the early 1980's. 

The 1930's were a time of increasing competition for gas stations, and companies had to find new ways to differentiate themselves. Some stations added practical features like bathrooms or automobile maintenance services; this station took a different route. The Embassy Gulf Service Station was big on public service, and the owners saw them as similar to civic institutions like libraries or banks. The Classical Revival architecture was supposed to reinforce this connection.

"The Embassy Gulf Service Station is an important symbol of Gulf Oil's commitment to developing gas station architecture as community assets worthy of praise and preservation." - National Parks Service

Building anything in Washington DC - even a gas station - can be a highly bureaucratic affair. Since the Embassy Gulf Service Station is next to Rock Creek Park, its design had to be reviewed by none less than the Commission on Fine Arts, the National Park Service, and the National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Few gas stations today are subject to such intense artistic scrutiny.

After a few back and forths, architect P.L.R. Hogner's design for the station was approved. It was built out of Alabama Limestone and featured Doric columns and a pediment with a clock. (Unfortunately, the clock is now broken.) 

Read more about Embassy Gulf in the comprehensive report from Historic American Buildings Survey.

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