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Gas Station to Celebrate 50th With Toast to Fifties, Frank Lloyd Wright

July 31, 2008

By Lisa Baumann, The Pine Journal, Cloquet, Minn.

Jul. 30–Next Thursday, hundreds of people will come together in Cloquet to pay homage to a gas station.

Of course it’s not any old gas station, but the only one in the world designed by an architect often counted among the world’s most influential — Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Aug. 7 celebration will mark the culmination of a summer-long 50th anniversary honoring the cultural landmark.

The day’s events will take participants back to the 1950s, starting with tours of the station in the morning, as well as the display of Carlton County Historical Society’s original exhibition, “Frank Lloyd Wright in Cloquet,” one block away from the station. The display features architectural drawings of the station by Wright and information on how the station fit into Wright’s broader Utopian vision for a new American City — his “Broadacre City” plan. A slideshow also depicts the building of the station in 1958. Since the exhibit opened in June, people have come to view it from more than a dozen states including Alaska, California, Florida and New York, as well as several provinces in Canada.

From 1 to 4 p.m., a symposium at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College will feature speakers including Bob Pond, the Talisen architect who apprenticed with Wright on the design and construction of the station. Jennifer Webb, PhD and assistant professor of art history at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, will speak to the culture of the 1950s while Tim Quigley, past president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy and board member of the Minnesota Society of Architectural Historians, will talk about Wright and his accomplishments. Pine Journal Publisher Wendy Johnson will wrap up the event by leading a lively roundtable discussion with members of the McKinney/Lindholm family, who commissioned Wright to design their Cloquet home and the station.

The fee for the symposium is $75, which includes a $10 voucher for refreshments at the community celebration. Space is still available and people can register by calling 218-879-1950.

At 4 p.m. on Aug. 7, the community celebration begins at the station, located at the intersection of Highway 33 and Cloquet Avenue. Everyone is invited to arrive early with cameras to capture gas station attendants in 1950s-era costumes as they pump gas for classic car owners at 1958 prices! Once that is complete, the cars will be parked for a classic car show and contest during the rest of the evening.

From 4 to 8 p.m., radio personalities from WKLK will broadcast live from the station and play music from the era while “Bubs the Clown” will regale children with balloons and smiles as he did 50 years ago at the grand opening of the station.

Complimentary Fifties fare from none-other-than Gordy’s Hi-Hat will be enjoyed by all. Gordy’s will take donations, however, and all proceeds will benefit the Cloquet Educational Foundation. A cash bar will also be available on site, provided by the Northeastern Saloon and Grille.

At 6 p.m. Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren will declare Aug. 7 “Frank Lloyd Wright Day,” the National Historic Register plaque will be unveiled and comments will come from a few surprise guests.

Informal tours of the station will also be available and with its fresh makeover, the station will be worth checking out all on its own. From new gas pumps to a full paint job and an overhaul to the upstairs lounge including refinished wood and remodeled bathrooms, the family is working to restore the station to its former glory. Commemorative merchandise, including retro postcards, polo shirts and prints made from vintage posters, will be available.

From approximately 3:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. that day, Cloquet Avenue in front of the station and Third Street adjacent to the station will be closed to vehicle traffic. The westbound lanes of Cloquet Avenue will remain open but will be split with one lane for eastbound traffic. The stoplights at the intersection of Highway 33 and Cloquet Avenue will flash red during that time and traffic will be directed by Cloquet police officers. Parking will be available on area side streets and in Veterans Park.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Pine Journal, Cloquet, Minn.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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