Visiting the Cucamonga Service Station on Route 66

When driving down Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, it’s impossible not to notice the bright yellow Spanish Colonial-style service station on the north side of the road. The building is the Cucamonga Service Station, and it dates back to a time before Route 66 even existed.

There were once thousands of similar service stations throughout the United States, but the one in Rancho Cucamonga is the last of its type on Route 66 in California. It’s incredible that it has survived over a century, especially considering how much the surrounding area has been built up.

Originally owned by William Harvey, the service station was built in 1915 on Foothill Blvd. on the site of where the Hugh Larson Ford Repair had stood. Harvey owned the station until 1925 before selling it to Ancil Morris, who was a Richfield Oil distributor. Morris would own the station until 1944.

The Cucamonga Service Station would remain a Richfield Oil Corporation gas station until the 1970s. Arvid “Chief” Lewis, who was Rancho Cucamonga’s first full-time fire chief, owned the station from 1945 to 1971, when it finally closed down.

Richfield emblem at the Cucamonga Service Station.

Despite the station closing in the 1970s, the building somehow managed to survive. The Rancho Cucamonga city council voted in 2009 to make the station a city landmark, but that designation didn’t come with any funds for preservation or restoration.

In 2011 the Cucamonga Service Station’s garage collapsed after a storm.

Lamar Advertising had bought the property in 2005, and in 2013 they requested permission to demolish the building. The city council denied the request since it had been declared a city historic landmark. Lamar was not in the business of historic preservation, so they made a deal with Route 66 Inland Empire California (IECA), a local historic preservation non-profit organization. Lamar donated the property and station to the group with the stipulation that they get to keep a billboard on the lot.

Now, with the station owned by a historic preservation group, work began on restoring it. The group raised about $50,000 for the restoration, and the repairs included building a new roof. In 2015 the building reopened as a museum.

In 2018 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are plans to rebuild the garage that once was in the back eventually.

Inside the building is a small museum that focuses on the history of the station and Richfield Oil, along with a small gift shop. They also claim to have the cleanest restroom on Route 66.

The Cucamonga Service Station in the 1940s.

Since the restoration, the Cucamonga Service Station has won a number of awards, including a Preservation Design Award from the California Preservation Foundation in 2016 and the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award in 2018.

If you are in the area, the station is open from 10 to 3 on Thursdays through Sunday, but even if it isn’t open, it is still great to look at and a worthwhile stoop to grab some pictures. It’s definitely one of the cooler Route 66 attractions in the area.

The Cucamonga Service station is located at 9670 Foothill Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730. Admission is free.

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