My love of novelty architecture knows no bounds, and I knew I had to figure out a way to see the last remaining clamshell-shaped Shell gas station on our recent road trip through North Carolina. The Shell station was so important to me, that it dictated the route for the second half of our trip, and although it was a quick stop it was definitely worth seeing in person.
Eight clamshell-shaped stations were originally built in the 1930s by Quality Oil, a Winston-Salem based distributor of Shell oil. The stations were made of concrete stucco over a wood and wire frame, similar to the Big Duck. The last remaining station is located in a residential neighborhood in Winston-Salem, and it remained open as a gas station until the '50s. In the '70s and '80s it was repurposed as a lawn mower repair shop and restored in the '90s by Preservation North Carolina. Today it's used as an office and information center by the society, but it was closed when we visited.
I logically understand why buildings like this often become obsolete, but they're just so charming and whimsical I can't help but wish that novelty architecture would make a comeback. Life can get monotonous and boring—all phone calls and paperwork—but novelty architecture rebels against that reality and presents an alternative. Very few people would say that stopping to fill up their car brings them joy, but it would be hard not to smile when you're pulling up to a giant clamshell.
Bonus whimsy! After we saw the clamshell, my mom and stopped for lunch at a Dairi-O, located in nearby King, NC. Dairi-O started serving hamburgers and milkshakes out of a stand in King in 1947, and the location currently has a giant milkshake (with two straws!) for its entrance. When we pulled up, there was this perfect, vintage car parked out front and we assumed that it was always there—until two customers finished their meals, got in and drove away right after I took this photo.
1111 E Sprague Street
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27107
365 East Dalton Road
King, North Carolina 27021