The Fate of Walley’s Service Station ¦ Circa 1940 – 1967

What is more important, preserving a historical landmark or paving a parking lot?

If you’ve ever heard the song “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot”, by the Counting Crows, then the irony of the punch-line of that song is clearly expressed through the frustration of many Waukesha residents over the idea of the YMCA demolishing Walley’s Service Station.

Walley's Service Station

Don’t it always seem to go,

That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone…

 

Built in 1929, the Bartles-Maguire Gas Station located at 422 E. Broadway is a popular designed residential style gas station that was made to blend into the surrounding neighborhoods of that time. According to nomination papers for the National Register of Historic Places, there are three other “house style” gas stations like Walley’s listed to exist in Waukesha County. However, two of them have already been demolished, and the third has an inappropriate addition that was added to it, essentially eviscerating the natural look and any historical significance.  As such, Walley’s is believed to be the last “intact” house style gas station in Waukesha County, and maybe even the entire state of Wisconsin?  Perhaps this is why the Waukesha Landmark Commission designated this unique and final piece of Waukesha County history as a landmark in July of 2010.  It’s ironic that this classification came shortly after Walley’s was purchased by the YMCA, essentially thwarting plans to demolish the building to put up a parking lot.  Although the YMCA has petitioned the Waukesha Landmarks Commission to remove the “Landmark” status of the Bartles-Maguire/Wadhams gas station, that decision was deferred For another 30 days this past Wednesday.   Nevertheless, the fate of Walley’s Service Station is unknown, and the building has been placed second on the “most endangered list of 2011” by The Society for Commercial Archeology.

Every day tiny pieces of Waukesha’s history are erased forever. Tearing down woodlands, hiking trails, buildings, only to build another subdivision, Wal-Mart or business equally as pathetic, the city almost seems to be slowly fading away as this flat, ecologically barren cancer scrapes away at what once was an historically enriched environment. How far is the city of Waukesha willing to go in erasing its history?  Maybe they could just approve of tearing up any and all farm land, trees, and trails for kids to bike on and play. It’s a sad and absolutely pathetic situation when you drive down any of a number of roads only to see vacant strip malls and blank signs.  It almost makes you feel as if you live in an overcrowded city when it’s not.  Wouldn’t you rather see an unkempt field than an empty strip mall, storefront, or parking lot?

Do any of you recall the small farmhouse that once used to occupy the corner of Arcadian Avenue and Hwy164, just kitty-corner from the Aldi store is now?  They tore down the farm and built a Jewel/Osco, which sold to Sentry, which went out of business in 2008 and there the empty parking lot sits.  The list could go on and on…

Although the YMCA has brought up the prospect of relocating Walley’s, where would it be relocated to?  How much nostalgia would remain? The proposal doesn‘t fly for many Waukesha residents who wish to protect what we have left of our historic community.
Waukesha Preservation Alliance representative Mary Emery stated, “This is an important part of automotive history.”   What the alliance is hoping for is a business to move into the building so the history and memories of Walley’s “still stay in the city for everyone to enjoy.”

If you’re interested in saving Walley’s you can support the cause on Facebook, and/or you can offer a donation by visiting the Waukesha Preservation Alliance website by clicking ” Here

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2 Responses to The Fate of Walley’s Service Station ¦ Circa 1940 – 1967

  • I grew up on the corner of Lincoln & Bell Street and no longer live in Waukesha, however many good memories of that whole little strip of shops crossing Walley’s by the crosslights such as Rode’s Pharmacy, the meat market, barber shop, hair salon, the bakery and now Lincoln Pub which use to be Rano’s and before that was The Custard Cup. I remember when Walley’s became “The Fruit Stand” as we in the neighborhood called it or Farmers Market. Perhaps THe Y could use it again for this purpose and also a way for our Youth at the Y to help run it in the summers instead of a parking Lot. Teaching about good nutrition by selling fresh fruits and veggies, surely something Good for the YMCA to promote and let people Park there in the winter when not in use as a Veggie Stand or maybe the Chamber Of Commerce can rent it for this purpose. There must be Uses for this quaint corner lot and nostalgic building for the Chamber Of Commerce themselves. I hope something can be worked out for those who are passionate about the history of Waukesha and I will watch for any updates.

    • Catherine:
      Unfortunately the gas station is now gone. The YMCA won their bid to have the landmark status rescinded so they can demolish it along with two houses; one on each side of the corner lot. Although it was torn down over a year ago, the lots still sit empty. All the purposes and excuses as to why the YMCA needed the buildings gone were just a bunch of lies by their silver-tongued lawyer!