Last updated: November 12, 2022
As post-war Americans hit the highways at the zenith of the nation’s infatuation with car culture, automotive service stations proliferated across the country. Corporate branding became increasingly important as American oil companies vied to attract the attention of the motoring public. In 1956, Clarence Reinhardt, the corporate architect for Phillips Petroleum, began to experiment with dramatic V-shaped canopies at the company’s branded filling stations. By 1960, a harlequin paint scheme and Reinhardt’s “bat wing” canopy were launched as the “New Look” of the Phillips architectural brand.
Boise’s only example of this design was constructed on State Highway 44 in 1964. This numerical highway identifier and the Phillips 66 brand of gasoline resulted in the gas station’s first recorded name, the Forty-Four & Sixty-Six Service Station. By 1975, the building no longer functioned as a gas station and instead began to house a variety of auto service and sales companies. Milan and Blazena Kral, defectors from Soviet Czechoslovakia, purchased the building in 1977 and for 20 years operated the German Car Service auto repair shop.
Following Milan’s death in 2016, the building was bequeathed to his son and daughter-in-law, Thames and Stacy Kral, who were determined to preserve and rehabilitate this vestige of mid-century Boise.
Instead of demolition and sale of the land to the highest bidder, the Krals sought a tenant who would appreciate the quirky characteristics of the space and sensitively adapt it to a new use. Design Vim, a women-veteran-owned interior design firm approached the Krals with an intent to renovate the gas station for their offices. The Krals insisted that the original elements of the building be respected and retained.
The Krals had the building listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2019, the first of its style and property type to be listed in Idaho. They also submitted an application to the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service to qualify for the historic tax credits. The Krals worked with Design Vim to retain key spaces and fixtures in the former garage and in the office area where original cabinetry, flooring, and windows have been retained or replaced in kind. Design Vim’s current workspace reflects the historic uses of the interior, with a lobby in the customer service area and open-floor offices in the garage bays.
The Krals rehabilitation project was rewarded with a 2020 Orchid Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation from Preservation Idaho.
Courtesy: Dan Everhart, Idaho State Historic Preservation Office