LOST COKATO: STANDARD OIL STATIONS

It is known that the first car seen in Cokato appeared in late August 1900. As written in Cokato’s First Century:
“the occupants were a man and wife reported to be en route to Mille Lacs Lake to hunt and fish. The Enterprise editor wrote that the vehicle ‘speeded” along at a rate of 12 miles per hour when on a good road, and the horseless carriage was quite a sight for those who had never seen one before, which probably meant almost everyone in Cokato.”

It would be another three years before car ownership arrived in Cokato, when businessman Emil Erickson and farmer John Ojanpera each purchased a new Oldsmobile. Gust Akerlund joined the ranks of car owners two years later, when he purchased a 1905 Oldsmobile from a stranger who drove into town.

In that day, there were no service stations to supply the essentials needed for auto ownership. Oil and gas were bought in bulk from hardware dealers. It would be another thirteen years until an actual service station opened in Cokato. And when it did, it was under the ownership of the largest corporate conglomerate in the world, Standard Oil.

Oscar A. Holmer opened Cokato’s first filling station, the Standard Oil station, in late July 1918. Built at the corner of Broadway Avenue and Third Street East, the station featured a landscaped art-deco design, along with two gas pumps. The Cokato Enterprise noted that at the time, this station was notable as the only one of its kind between Willmar and Minneapolis.

Holmer operated the station for just over twelve years. In early October 1930, Earl J. Nelson, a well-known local resident, took over management of the station. During Holmer’s tenure, a several improvements were made, owing almost exclusively to the station’s growth in business as the number of people who owned cars grew exponentially.

This downtown station was not the only Standard Oil outlet in Cokato. At the corner of Third Street and Highway 12 sat another. It is not certain when this one closed.

For many years, the structure remained at that corner, the home a number of businesses, including the Chicken Shack. When Highway 12 was reconstructed through Cokato in 2000, a private interest purchased the building and moved to Hutchinson, where it was turned it into a replica gas station from the 1920s.

The final days of the downtown Standard station came in late 1955. The Standard company, along with a Lamberton businessman owned the property. Due to the lack of room for expansion, they decided that demolition was more cost-efficient than remodeling. The property was later purchased from the Standard Oil corporation by the State Bank of Cokato for a parking lot. (This property is now home to the current State Bank.)

©2005, Cokato Historical Society