Batwing gas station.

World's First Batwing Gas Station

Field review by the editors.

Haysville, Kansas

The Vickers Petroleum Service Station was built in 1954 under the direction of architect John M. Hickman, who had apprenticed under Frank Lloyd Wright (Wright had previously designed his own flamboyant gas station). The idea that a place that pumped gas and fixed flats should merit eye-popping architectural finesse had been around since before World War II, but the "batwing" design pioneered in Haysville was both extreme and futuristic.

Batwing gas station, ~1960s.
Batwing gas station circa 1960.

Unfortunately, no one can remember why Haysville, at the time a farming community of around 5,000, was chosen as the debut spot for this radical style. Perhaps the proximity of the Kansas Turnpike, which began construction in 1954, may have had something to do with it.

Cantilevered batwing overhangs suffered from the twin foes of weather and gravity. They were more stylish than practical, and most are now gone. But the Haysville station was apparently built prototype-tough. By 1999 the building had been abandoned, and yet when an F4 tornado tore through downtown Haysville, the Vickers station was one of the few buildings left undamaged. This inspired the town to restore and preserve it. In 2007 the Vickers station became the Haysville Chamber of Commerce office, and in October 2019 the Park Service added it to the National Register of Historic Places.

[2019 photo provided courtesy of Debra Jane Seltzer, RoadsideArchitecture.com

World's First Batwing Gas Station

Haysville Economic Development

Address:
140 N. Main St., Haysville, KS
Directions:
Haysville Economic Development. Downtown, on the east side of Main St., just north of its intersection with W. 71st St. S./E. Grand Ave.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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