Michigan Service Stations by Alden B. Dow

Midland, Michigan

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s,Michigan automobile designs were characterized by head-turning tailfins and sleek lines. It’s not hard to imagine a ’59 Buick Electra pulling up to the gas pumps of the Bay Service Station on Ashman Street in Midland, designed by Alden B. Dow in 1960.

Perhaps it was those same tailfins that inspired the eye-catching lines of this futuristic structure.

The soaring roofline of the Bay Service Station is a hyperbolic paraboloid – a doubly-curved surface that has a convex form along one axis and a concave form along the other. The use of hyperbolic paraboloids as a form of construction was pioneered in the post-war era. By being both lightweight and efficient, the form was used as a means of minimizing materials and increasing structural strength while also being capable of achieving impressive and seemingly complex designs.

For his design, Mr. Dow made use of Dow Chemical’s Styrofoam for the roof framing, covered with a thin concrete layer and waterproofed. It was one of several gas stations he designed for the Bay Refining Company, a division of Dow Chemical. The building is still in use today as an auto detailing business, still servicing automobiles and, in that way, fulfilling its original function.

In addition to drawings and photographs of the Bay Service Station, the service Station collection in the Alden B Dow Archives also includes Mr. Dow’s drawings for the Crown Petroleum Service Station in Bay City, a photograph of the Leonard Service Station in Ann Arbor, and a delightful color pencil sketch for a gas station/store/house that was drawn in the 1940’s but never built.

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Modern home with exterior. The Bay Service Station, Bay City Michigan by Alden B. Dow  Photo  of Michigan Service Stations by Alden B. Dow

The Bay Service Station, Bay City Michigan by Alden B. Dow

Leonard Service Station in Ann Arbor Michigan by Alden B. Dow Photo 2 of Michigan Service Stations by Alden B. Dow modern home

Leonard Service Station in Ann Arbor Michigan by Alden B. Dow

A delightful color pencil sketch for a gas station/store/house that was drawn in the 1940’s but never built by Alden B. Dow Photo 3 of Michigan Service Stations by Alden B. Dow modern home

A delightful color pencil sketch for a gas station/store/house that was drawn in the 1940’s but never built by Alden B. Dow

Crown Petroleum Service Station in Bay City, by Alden B. Dow Photo 4 of Michigan Service Stations by Alden B. Dow modern home

Crown Petroleum Service Station in Bay City, by Alden B. Dow