Clamshell Shell Station (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)

Clamshell shaped Shell gas station

While eight clamshell Shell Oil stations were built in the 1930’s, seven of them were in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Sitting alone as a beacon of times long forgotten, the last of these stations holds down the corner of Sprague and Peachtree streets.  The station was modeled after the brand logo of Royal Dutch-Shell Oil, and was constructed of concrete stucco over a bent wood and wire frame.

Joe H. Glenn and his uncle Bert Bennett Sr., acquired distribution rights from W.H. Leonard to the Quality Oil Company’s small and relatively unheard of Shell Oil Company.  It was this unlikely duo that erected the clamshell service stations as advertisements. The clamshell stations were a way for them to represent the logo of the company as a physical symbol of turning a brand into a building.  The 1901 original brand for the London-based Shell Transport and Trading Company was a mussel shell, but the short lived logo was replaced with a scallop shell in 1904.

This last station remained open until the 1950’s and then housed a lawn mower repair business during the 70’s and 80’s. During this time, in 1976, the small clamshell building became the first individual station in America to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The little shell station fell into disrepair in the late 80’s and early 90’s till Preservation North Carolina stepped in to restore the badly faded façade.  Preservation North Carolina used the building as a regional office for a short time but now the clamshell service station now serves as a makeshift shrine to itself, and as a small museum of old service station related items.

Preservation North Carolina still holds protective covenants on the property, so the clamshell will be preserved in perpetuity.

Shell Oil Company Facts

  • The Royal Dutch/Shell Group began selling gasoline imported from Sumatra to the United States in 1912.
  • Shell Development Company was formed in 1928 to conduct petrochemical research.
  • In 1912, the Royal Dutch/Shell Group founded the American Gasoline Company to sell gasoline along the Pacific Coast, and Roxanna Petroleum to buy oil product properties in Oklahoma
  • Shell began supplying 100-octane fuel to the U.S. Air Corps in 1934, and became one of the largest producers of aviation fuel.
  • The Shell Company started out as an antique store and an oriental shell store.
  • Shell products fueled and lubricated the three-wheeled, jet-powered car that set the land speed record on August 5, 1963. The “Spirit of America” achieved 407.45 miles per hour on the Salt Flats at Bonneville, Utah.
  • Shell was the sole petroleum products advertiser during CBS-TV’s 17-day coverage of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.
  • In 2012, Greenpeace activists shut down 53 Shell stations in the United Kingdom to protest their drilling in the Arctic.