105 Years Ago: Rockville’s First Gulf “Gas Station”
Curbside gasoline pumps were the predecessor to today’s contemporary fuel pumps. Before the advent of curbside pumps, gasoline was pumped from storage barrels, then hand poured into the automobile from tins. In 1901, a new underground container system was patented. The system used underground holding tanks which allowed the storage and subsequent distribution of gasoline to the surface via a curbside pump. It is considered the first vehicle fuel dispenser.
One hundred and five years ago, Rockville Garage began selling gas at their original location in Old Rockville at the triangle at Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike. It was a perfect site for the filling station due to being on a high visibility corner which gave the dealership maximum visibility to the largest volume of cross traffic. Their first “gas station” consisted of a single pump and one small tank. Rockville Garage dispensed gasoline produced by the Gulf Oil Co. and later offered Texaco gasoline as well. Reed Brothers is credited as the first Gulf gasoline dealer in the Washington, DC area.
Rockville’s First Gulf “Gas Station” – A Single Pump
The close-up image above illustrates the utilitarian design of the early gas pumps. These early pumps were roughly four feet tall and were supplied with a hose for dispensing fuel directly to the automobile. Although hardly an ideal system, pumps and underground tanks along the curb were an improvement over the earliest filling stations where gasoline was poured from hand containers. This curbside pump would remain in use until roughly 1917.
The zoomed-in image of the November 1915 Sanborn map shows the one-story Rockville Garage at the junction of Rockville & Georgetown Turnpike and Washington Road. These maps are quite specific, not only in representing graphically the dimensions of buildings and spaces around them, but also in the details of the construction materials and activities that took place there. Notes on this map indicate that the garage had a 15-car capacity as well as a single gasoline pump. They also noted the buried gas tank and where it was located with a small circle.