An Edwardsville service station on historic Route 66 is revived as museum
An Edwardsville service station along the historic Route 66 corridor is getting a second chance at life as a museum and interpretive center.
For nearly 40 years, the West End Service Station was a hub on the historic road. The station opened its doors in 1927 as Springer’s Madison Oil Co. on the corner of St. Louis and West streets. The name was later changed to West End Service Station in 1936.
In 1964, Interstate 55 bypassed Edwardsville, which eventually led to its decline. The building was later purchased by a local dentist who turned it into his office.
“I like to tell people it gave new meaning to the term ‘filling station,’” said SJ Morrison, 4th Ward alderman for Edwardsville.
Morrison was a patient at that dentist office for roughly 30 years. Growing up, he had a lot of fond memories there. Morrison and other community members learned the Illinois Department of Transportation bought the building and lot with plans to demolish it in order to expand an intersection.
“I worked with our public works director and some of our staff to contact IDOT, and said ‘hey, is there any way we could save this building from demolition? It has historic value. It means a lot to a lot of people,’” Morrison said.
Last year, Edwardsville purchased the building at a public auction. The city ultimately partnered with the Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau to get a nearly $500,000 grant from the state to preserve and restore the building.
“We saved it from the wrecking ball,” said Cory Jobe, the president and CEO of the tourism bureau.
The West End Service Station is believed to be one of the last remaining original Route 66 service stations for more than 60 miles. Now, the newly restored museum and interpretive center is set to open its doors for the first time on Friday. The free tourist attraction includes a gift shop and self-guided tours as well as tour guides on hand to talk about the history of Route 66 and the West End Service Station.
“We have interpretive panels talking about historic sites throughout Edwardsville,” Jobe said. “Some are still standing, some unfortunately not. We also talk about the history of the family who started the West End gas station. We even have replica Shell gas station pumps out front.”
Friday’s grand opening is one of the many preservation efforts the tourism bureau is working on ahead of the 100th anniversary of Route 66 in 2026. Morrison said he’s thrilled to have saved a significant piece of Edwardsville and Route 66 history.
“It continues to be a catalyst for culture making,” Morrison said. “It continues to be something that captures the hearts and the imaginations of people who both remember traveling Route 66, and those who came along many years later.”
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.