"12 Cents a Gallon" - The Lighthouse Gas Station, Cairo, Kansas

by Michael Boss
Alkyd on Panel
20" X 30"

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, I would travel to Rose Hill, Kansas to see my friends Karen and Kermit Taylor and their young son Brenden. Not being in a hurry, I drove the backroads on the trek. Several times on Highway 54, I passed an architectural relic west of Cairo, Kansas which I couldn't quite decipher. It was possibly a funny looking tee pee or even a Dutch Windmill. Not being as absorbed with architectural icons, time went by.

In 2010 I discovered the roadside building had been a lighthouse! It was designed and constructed by the W.S. "Pat" Grier family in 1931. The Lighthouse Gas Station really was a total family project, as stated by Jack Grier in the Cairo history book, "My mother was the artist and architect in our household. She drew up the plan and helped my dad build it. She roofed the tower while she was waiting for me.
The unusual roadside creation was constructed of long studs, lathe, and chicken wire, with plaster inside and stucco outside, and a spiral staircase inside winding up to the tower walk.

Through the years, Kan-O-Tex gasoline and products were their petroleum staple. And yes, the Special of the Day would often read 12 cents a gallon, and 6 quarts of oil for 85 cents.
The Lighthouse was also a stop for Santa Fe Trailways buses. The Griers had a moveable stop sign which would be placed near the highway to alert the driver there were passengers to be picked up. With later highway improvement, the gasoline service was discontinued in 1949.

As Highway 54 was once again widened, the landmark was demolished and buried on the very site where it stood for 66 years.

Thanks so much to Marsha Brown of the Pratt County Historical Society and a warm and funny phone visit with Jack Grier.