Let’s look at the Marquez Filling Station and SurveyLA

Sep 04, 2010 by Lisa Newton

Located across the street from the bottom of one set of the Santa Monica Stairs is the Marquez Filling Station. I know what you’re thinking.

Is this really a “Filling Station?”

Before I talk about that, even the term “filling station” isn’t used much anymore. Everyone says “gas station.” Just the name gives you a clue as to the age of this particular site.

Built in 1924 on land owned by the same family since a Mexican land grant of 1839, the Marquez Filling Station was the oldest continuously operating gas station in Los Angeles. In fact, it was operating until 2004.

A year later when descendants of the Marquez family prepared to sell the property, the filling station became threatened with demolition, spurring a preservation effort. Despite the owner’s opposition, an eleventh hour campaign resulted in it being declared Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #800.

Ultimately a neighbor acquired the property, and using “green” strategies for efficiency, material use, and site sustainability, the Marquez Filling Station is now a working architectural studio. In fact, the filling station was one of the winners of the 2007 Annual Preservation Award from the Los Angeles Conservancy:

The project also saved an increasingly rare example of Southern California roadside architecture while illustrating that even relatively small pieces of history matter.

When I first saw the station, I really had no idea what historical significance it had although I knew it was on the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument’s list.

Not until I read more about the Marquez Filling Station, did I completely put all of its history together.

The Marquez Filling Station story is one reason why historic surveys are so important. Taking place right now, the Office of Historic Resources (OHR), a government agency with the City of Los Angeles, is identifying significant historic resources throughout Los Angeles. OHR, located in the Department of City Planning, is undertaking the survey with the help of a 5 year grant from the Getty, and they need your help.

Whether it is the story of a single property or your entire neighborhood, the OHR needs this information to help guide historic preservation professionals as they conduct the field surveys. The Year 1 survey areas are the first priority but it’s not to soon to get started in your neighborhood!

Not surprisingly, SurveyLA was a 2009 Emmy Award winner:

Los Angeles is a paradox; a mixture of old and new, traditional and modern, and always changing. And we wouldn’t have it any other way, so let’s go out there and find some history!

Historical Photo courtesy of the Office of Historic Resources

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