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July 9, 2020

The Smallest Gas Station in the World

Detroit Lakes may be a small, quaint community that is regionally famous for things like its lakes and kicked-back, relaxed living. But decades ago, the city was known around the world for what was known as the “smallest gas station in the world.”

The teeny-tiny pit stop in Detroit Lakes.

In 1937 the tiny station was featured in “Ripley’s Believe it Or Not” publication (before it became a TV show) and was also featured in a 1949 issue of “Science and Mechanics” magazine.

The smallest gas station in the world was owned by J.M. Sauer and his sons, Roy and Lee. The inside of the gas station was so tiny that it had only enough room for one person; however, it did have a much larger room downstairs. A trap door in the little gas station featured a spiral staircase that went down into a larger space where there was a bathroom and a storage area for things like bulk oil.

It is noted that the station was robbed of $750 in 1925. Despite that though, business appeared to be good. The station also happened to be located conveniently close to the bus station at the time, which meant bus drivers were often filling up there, while tourists took the opportunity to get photos of the “world’s smallest gas station”.

Business began to dry up for the Standard station when gas started being rationed and hard to get as World War II approached. The Sauer brothers went off into the service, and at that point, the station closed. When the brothers returned from service, the tried to buy the tiny gas station back, but Standard instead chose to sell it to the city for $500. It was then tore down in 1950.

The smallest gas station in the world was located right in downtown Detroit Lakes, next to the bus stop. (Photo courtesy of Becker County Historical Society)

Standard Oil sold to the city of Detroit Lakes for $500; the city then tore it down. (Photo courtesy of Becker County Historical Society)

Brothers Roy and Lee Sauer, stand by the tiny gas station they helped start up with their father, J.M. Sauer. The brothers closed the station before heading off into the service. They tried to buy it afterwards, but with no luck. (Photo courtesy of Becker County Historical Society)

But the story of the world’s smallest gas station didn’t die that day; The Lake Region Builders Association rebuilt a replica of the station for just over $1,000. It still sits down in the lower level of the Becker County Historical Society, all shiny red and exactly the size of the building that once put Detroit Lakes on the world map.

(via Detroit Lakes Tribune)

1 comment:

  1. When you are the smallest at what you do and are facing adversity, it is always a matter of "the harder you try the bigger you fail".
    Not unlike this very website, actually.




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