Cucamonga Service Station Brings Route 66 History to Life

Featured image credit: Einbierbitte

Travelers have been getting their “kicks on Route 66” since before any of us were born. Thankfully, even in those early days, there were plenty of service stations to keep motorists moving. But time has worked its magic. Gone are those faithful service stations of yore, replaced by newer models. Except in Rancho Cucamonga. There you’ll find the Cucamonga Service Station; a carefully restored and preserved Spanish Colonial-style relic of Route 66 history. 

Credit to Klusman

In the early 1900s, record keeping wasn’t quite as meticulous as it is today. Or maybe record storage was as haphazard as it is today. Either way, it seems there’s no official documentation of the Cucamonga Service Station’s 1915 origin. But ask around Rancho Cucamonga and anyone who actually knows what you’re talking about will likely attribute the station’s construction to one Henry Klusman. 

Klusman was a big name in Rancho Cucamonga’s early days. In fact, he’s credited with building many of the properties that started the community. But with no documentation to support his handiwork in the building of the Cucamonga Service Station, we’re left with pure, flimsy speculation. 

What we can say with certainty is that the station was originally owned by William Harvey. Less than a year after opening the station, Harvey purchased some land directly behind his garage from Klusman with a mind to expand. So, we at least know Klusman was involved in the Cucamonga Service Station origin story to some degree. 

Servicing Route 66 Since Day One

Photo credit: Envato

It’s strange to think that all of this dealin’ predates Route 66’s wheelin’. The now historic roadway wasn’t even fully mapped out until 1926. But when the asphalt was finally laid, it ran right alongside the Cucamonga Service Station. 

In those days, similarly designed service stations flanked the highway. Therefore, the Cucamonga Service Station survives as a sort of souvenir of the past. It’s the only remaining station of its model still situated along Route 66. 

By the 1930s, Richfield Oil Corporation had acquired the station. Under their supervision, the Cucamonga Service Station brought relief to motorists until 1971. And then not much of note happened for several decades. 

The Rebirth of the Cucamonga Service Station

Photo credit: Einbierbitte

In 2009, the city council of Rancho Cucamonga finally designated the Cucamonga Service Station a historical landmark. Unfortunately for the station, the designation was all it got. There were no funds allocated for its restoration… which it badly needed.

In 2013, Lamar Advertising, which owned the service station at that point, officially requested its demolition. They were surprised to find that the property was, in fact, protected. Now Lamar Advertising had a property they couldn’t use and the city of Rancho Cucamonga was protecting a property it couldn’t restore. Not exactly a happy predicament for anyone. 

Fortunately, Lamar had a solution. They decided to donate the property to the registered non-profit Route 66 Inland Empire California (IECA). However, there was a single condition. Lamar’s billboard would remain on the property, allowing them to continue advertising onsite. 

The Cucamonga Service Station as a Museum

Photo credit: Route 66 IECA

The station’s money problems were alleviated in 2015 thanks to some generous donors and community assistance. Today, the Cucamonga Service Station is restored to its original condition and serves as a museum, connecting visitors to Route 66’s storied past. 

It doesn’t take much time to tour this labor of love. But it’s still a work in progress. Plans are currently underway to rebuild the station’s garage. This will allow for more space for additional artifacts from the station’s heyday. 

Since reopening its doors, the Cucamonga Service Station has netted several awards and achievements. These include:

  • Rancho Cucamonga City Landmark Designation (2009)
  • Native Sons of the Golden West Landmark Plaque (2015)
  • California Preservation Foundation Design Preservation Award (2016)
  • Governor’s Preservation Award (2018)
  • National Register of Historic Places Inclusion (2018)
  • “Best of Rancho Cucamonga – Museum” Award (2019)

Visiting the Service Station

Photo credit: Route 66 IECA

If you’d like to immerse yourself in Route 66 history, the Cucamonga Service Station is a great place to start. It’s typically open Thursdays through Sundays from 10am until 4pm. However, it’s still recommended you call ahead since restoration efforts can lead to closures during normal operating hours. Call them today at (909) 271-1024 to start planning your trip. 

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