The historic Mahan gas station that Bill Shea restored at his Shea’s Route 66 Museum in Springfield, Illinois, before his death was bought at auction by a local business owner and will be moved in the next month to his property — also on Route 66.
“My interest now is to see that corridor redeveloped,” said John Fulgenzi, Springfield Ward 4 alderman. “I think his buying that building makes a big difference in keeping a little history on the north end.”
Jeff Fulgenzi said that Shea’s son, Bill Shea Jr., embraced him after he bought the building and told him he was thankful the station will stay on the Route 66 corridor.
“That was my commitment to him,” Fulgenzi said.
The north end of Springfield reportedly experienced a drop in Route 66 in tourism. The closure of Shea’s and Vic’s Pizza played a role.
Fulgenzi said he aims to acquire some of the gas-station memorabilia displayed at Shea’s and display it. He also will meet with tourism and preservation officials to form a long-term plan for the Mahan gas station.
He has established a GoFundMe account to restore and restock the building, a task he estimates may require $50,000 to $75,000.
He added that he’ll be seeking grants, corporate donations and other means to help with the restoration.
The Mahan gas station dates to the 1920s from Middletown, Illinois, and was believed to be the oldest surviving gas station in the state. Shea moved the station from Middletown about 15 years ago.
As for the auctions for Shea’s Route 66 Museum contents, the newspaper reports people all over the world bought the memorabilia during the online auctions. Everything sold except the property. That will stay with the Shea family for now.
Bill Shea, a D-Day veteran, started in the gas-station business after leaving the military in 1946. He owned Marathon and Texaco stations in Springfield. In the mid-1990s, Shea converted a Marathon station on Route 66 into a museum filled with gas-station memorabilia. Shea greeted many thousands of Route 66 travelers from dozens of countries.
Shea was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1993. Dec. 30, 2011, was declared Bill Shea Day in Springfield in honor of his 90th birthday. The increasingly frail Shea was admitted to a nursing home shortly after that, and he died in December 2013 at age 91 and the station became open by appointment only. The Shea family entertained asked for offers for the station and its contents, with apparently no takers.
(Image of Mahan gas station by John Hagstrom via Flickr)