In the early to mid-1900s, a gas station along historic Route 66 acted as a beacon and refuge for Black travelers along the Mother Road. Now listed as one of the Most Endangered Places in America by the National Register of Historic Places, the Threatt family is raising funds to refurbish the filling station and nearby farm.
Located in rural Luther, Oklahoma, the Threatt Filling Station was built in 1915 by Allen Threatt as a safe stop for Black travelers and others who toured along Highway 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. It’s where Black families used to play baseball in the open field or dance to the jitterbug late into the night.
“It’s important that we restore this facility, because it’s something that our grandfather did,” said Ed Threatt, one of the grandsons of Allen Threatt in a phone interview with The Daily Yonder.
“Because it’s a part of the Black history within the state of Oklahoma it’s important that the generation within our family can come behind us and understand the importance of this. For him, to acquire 160 acres of land in the Jim Crow era, that’s no small feat.”
Stories have been passed down through generations of how people as far away as Tulsa sought refuge at the station during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Ed Threatt said. Though they have not found any concrete documentation, they have been told stories about such occurrences.
“So there’s so many reasons that this is so important, not only to my family, but Black families within the state,” he said.
Oklahoma was home to sundown towns – communities in which Black individuals and families were not welcome after sunset. Places like the Threatt filling station offered respite for such communities to Black travelers along Route 66.
Rhys Martin, president of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, said the organization has been working with the Threatt family for a while to help with the rehab of the building through grants.
Martin said a small grocery and cafe were added in the 1930s. The station was in operation until some time in the 1970s when it became a home for one of the members of the family, he said. “As they aged, so did the structure and it was eventually vacant,” Martin said, adding that the station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
The family came up with funds to hire a firm to create a historic structure report. Now, they are raising money to refurbish the filling station and turn it into an interpretive center. The report estimated that it would cost $200,000 to refurbish the facility. That’s not including all the elements and before the Covid-19 pandemic increased the costs of materials and labor, Ed Threatt noted.
The family hopes to begin restoration work in early 2022, Ed Threatt said, but are still raising much-needed funds.
Allen Threatt III, another grandson, said his grandfather was a business-minded individual. Now, he said, it’s time for the younger generation to learn about his grandfather and the movement he led in small-town Oklahoma.
People can learn more about the property or donate to the cause by visiting threattfillingstation.org.