George Preston's Filling Station

Corner of 4th Avenue and 13th Street, Belle Plaine, Iowa

George Preston's famous, porcelain sign-covered gas station, a prominent landmark in Belle Plaine

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Overview

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in May 2013

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Description 

George Preston's famous, porcelain sign-covered gas station, is a prominent landmark in Belle Plaine. George's father bought the station in 1923 and moved it to this location for his four sons to operate. At that time, it was located on the Lincoln Highway, America's first coast-to-coast paved highway.

He began to collect memorabilia of all kinds, including an OilPull diesel tractor, a Case steam tractor, a Model T Doctors Coupe, and a two-headed calf, stuffed and mounted inside the garage. He covered the station with porcelain signs, advertising gasoline, oil, tires, root beer and what-not. Some in town consider the place an eyesore, others consider it a unique piece of Americana that draws people to Belle Plaine.

The Lincoln Highway originally detoured south through Belle Plaine to avoid the Bohemian Hills, a natural obstacle to early automobiles. When the highway was rerouted to US 30, over the Bohemian Hills north of town, the traffic was reduced but George kept on, dispensing gasoline and plenty of stories about the Lincoln Highway and his life on the famous road. His most memorable story telling was on NBC's The Tonight Show where he wowed millions of viewers, and Johnny Carson himself, with his stories.

George died in 1993, his son, Ron, who maintained the site, passed away in 2012. The Preston family retains the property, and although they auctioned off much of the memorabilia, wishes to keep the property in the family. It is eligible to be listed on the NRHP and rightly should be.

Edited to add: Preston's was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 21, 2020.

Update Log 

  • November 16, 2020: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated NRHP Status to Added 9/21/2020.
  • May 11, 2013: Added by J.R. Manning

Sources