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One-time gateway gas stations roll into new era in Boerne

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  • Travis Roberson and business partner Robert Thornton are seeking to restore what was once a gateway corner into Boerne, a once-upon-a-time gas station, now something of a landmark, at the corner of Oak Park Dr. and Schweppe.
    Travis Roberson and business partner Robert Thornton are seeking to restore what was once a gateway corner into Boerne, a once-upon-a-time gas station, now something of a landmark, at the corner of Oak Park Dr. and Schweppe.
  • The station at Oak Park & Frey
    The station at Oak Park & Frey
  • The station at Oak Park & Schweppe
    The station at Oak Park & Schweppe
  • A historical map shows the location of the two gas stations.
    A historical map shows the location of the two gas stations.

Long before the term “gateway” entered urban planning lexicons, Oak Park Drive was Boerne’s preeminent gateway – the traveler’s entrée into the Hill Country from the distant but booming metropolis of San Antonio.

Bookending this gateway during the 1930s and ‘40s were two gas stations, which after almost 100 years both belong to local developer Travis Roberson. He is researching both of these once-upon-a-time filling stations and is integrating the history of each into plans for two unique properties.

According to local historian Bryden Moon, one of the area’s early maps (circa 1860/’70s) features “the road to San Antonio” angling directly at Boerne’s downtown before the route suddenly dog-legs due west on Oak Park. It was via Oak Park, therefore, that travelers could finally gaze downhill onto the quaint bustle of Boerne’s 19th century Main Street.

Several decades later, in 1929, when horse-powered cars had established themselves over horse-pulled carriages, Roberson says that the easternmost of his gas stations was built by the Kutzer Family at the corner of Frey and Oak Park.

That station failed in 1933 and its porte cochere was walled in and the resulting home has remained a boxy, utilitarian and eye-catching fusion of dwelling and ... well ... filling station.

Only three blocks west, on the corner of Oak Park and Schweppe, an abandoned gas station still stands - pretty much the same as it always has. It too is a building clearly geared to the automotive business, however lack of clear documentation has resulted in a property timeline that’s as smudged and hard to decipher as an old oil receipt.

Roberson’s records indicate that the filling station began fill-er-ups not long after its Kutzer counterpart.

A 1927 photo shows a youthful and vibrant building, its porte chochere reaching out to what was then a much narrower Oak Park. With a sign robustly advertising “Gulf – That Good Gasoline,” the station’s bustling activity and numerous cars speak to a flourishing business.

However, not until a few years later does an automotive enterprise show up in official documentation.

Although Roberson’s records suggest that this gas station, too, closed its doors in the late 1930s, other clues signal that it may have been in business awhile longer.

Jeep Rackley has always understood that his grandfather Lilburn Price Rackley lived at the Oak Park address sometime during the ‘30s and ‘40s. The Rackley family also believe that a Boerne Star advertisement, though it bears no address, was purchased by the station during their forebear’s tenure.

The advertisement, replete with exclamation points, boasts, “Here! Now! The NEW Gulf Gasolines!” on the same page as the exclamatory headline “Despite Victory Used Fat Saving Must Go On!” It was 1945.

So that it’s not at all clear just when this Oak Park gas station finally lost its relevance.

What is sure, is that for long decades, what some old-timers still call the “Rackley Station” and other old-timers call it “The Shack, stood empty until finally, the inevitable, spray-paint vandalism may have persuaded its long-time owner to sell to Roberson.

In detailing plans for the buildings, Roberson says the Kutzer property will remain a “single residence with an architectural tribute to the gas station.” And what he respectfully calls the Rackley Station will be developed on one side as residential loft townhomes whose garage-cum-filling-station designs will carry on the property’s history as well.

As for the gas station itself, Roberson says that he’s hoping to restore it, opening the doors as “a neighborhood spot for a small coffee and organic cold pressed juices and treats.”

Neither building is to be the busy, welcoming, gateway structure that it was once intended, but then again, Oak Park, while still named County Rd. 290, hasn’t been a preeminent Boerne gateway for almost 75 years.