No. 1: Airplane Filling Station
Located on the side of the busy Clinton Highway, northeast of Knoxville, the Airplane Filling Station catches the eye of passing motorists. Elmer and Henry Nickle built the plane-shaped gas station in 1930 along the newly widened U.S. 25 (Dixie Highway) with that just in mind. Missing only a propeller and landing wheels, the Airplane Filling Station looks similar to Charles Lindbergh’s famous Spirit of St. Louis. But the practicality of a plane-shaped building eventually limited the use of the property, which stopped selling gas in the 1960s. The building took on new uses over the years—a liquor store, used car dealership—as its wood elements deteriorated. Since 2003 a non-profit organization formed to preserve the building, the Airplane Filling Station Preservation Association has been slowly restoring the “airplane.” Although the first phase to purchase and stabilize the structure is complete, the economic downturn has delayed further work. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, it is the only example of mimetic architecture in the state, and is arguably one the best surviving of its type in the nation. While not in immediate danger, money must be raised to continue to restore this one-of-a-kind roadside property.
Contact: Rock Bernard, Airplane Filling Station Preservation Association, (865) 933-7158
Photo: Brian Stansberry / Creative Commons