This summer has brought help to a family trying to restore their Luther, Oklahoma, gas station that was likely the first and only Black-owned and -operated one on Route 66.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently included Threatt Filling Station in a $3 million total grant award to preserve 40 Black historic sites in the U.S. That came after the trust named it one of its 11 most endangered historic places in the country. According to the trust, less than 5% of sites they designate “most endangered” have been lost.
The Threatt family has set out to restore the filling station, which was built on their farm in 1915.
"The filling station itself, the building is in disrepair. It needs a lot of work. We're working to get the roof fixed, get a lot of the interior work done, the plumbing needs to be upgraded to code, the electrical system needs to be upgraded to code. We have some old fuel tanks in the ground that need to be removed to comply with EPA guidelines," said David Threatt.
The Threatt family is working to turn the filling station into an interpretive center. The filling station and its ball field, outdoor stage and bar were a known safe haven for Black travelers during Jim Crow, but Ed Threatt said it was known as a place for everyone.
"There were any number of white people that stopped and took advantage of the services that we offered, stopped and took advantage of some of the entertainment that was offered there," Ed Threatt said. "So, it wasn't just about people of color. All people, anybody could stop at that place and feel welcome and be safe."
Some artifacts from the filling station are on display in a traveling Smithsonian exhibition about the Green Book, a guide for Black travelers.
The station was built on the family farm in 1915, and while it reportedly served as a refuge for families fleeing the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Ed Threatt said they are still looking for documentation that confirms that.