Kelly Hackler’s dream of restoring the historic Twin Oaks property on Route 66 west of Phillipsburg is starting to come true.
Hackler and three volunteers from the Lebanon-Laclede County Route 66 Society completed removing an enclosure Saturday that has hid the front of the historic Twin Oaks gas station for many years. The volunteers were President Bruce Owen, Vice President Leland Townsend and board member Bill Jones, a former president.
The project took two straight Saturdays as the crew tore off siding, plywood and 2x4 framing studs from the front of the enclosure, which stretched from the pump island at the bottom to the canopy at the top. On Oct. 17, Hackler had a new roof installed.
Now, travelers on Route 66 again can see the large, white-stuccoed pillars that support the canopy and the stuccoed front of the station’s office.
“Right now, we’re just opening up the front of it so we can see where the original building was,” Hackler explained.
The exact age of the station is unknown. Hackler said he has been told it was built in 1945 to replace a similar building. But a 1931 photo in “Route 66: Laclede County Memories 1926-1957” shows a Twin Oaks station that matches the one at the site today. Another 1931 photo, from the blog of Martha Bernie, shows Anna McMenus Faulkner Twedell and sister-in-law Sadie Bilderbeck McMenus, owner of Twin Oaks, standing on the pump island of what appears to be the same station as today.
The Twin Oaks property also has a water-tower building that resembles a church steeple, a storage building, one remaining cabin and a large garage. Hackler said the house on the east end of the land is not the original building, which served as a cafe as well as a residence for the Twin Oaks operators. He said he was told recently that the original house was hauled away on a truck about 1970.
Plywood torn off the gas station will be used to repair roofs of the other buildings. But Hackler said further repairs will be on hold during the winter. First priority in the spring will be new shingles for the water tower.
“I’ve got everything to do it except the money,” he said with a laugh.
Hackler, who bought the 7.75-acre property in 2016, also would like to restore the only remaining cabin. “Hopefully, if it doesn’t fall down,” he said. If it can’t be salvaged, he would take it down, then rebuild with original material.
Gas tanks were removed about 1970, but pipes that once delivered gasoline still stick up from the pump island.
According to the Bernie’s blog, her great-uncle, Eli Preston “Pres” McMenus, owned a general-merchandise store in downtown Phillipsburg in the early 1900s. McMenus died in 1920 just shy of his 44th birthday. His widow, Sade Bilderback McMenus, and his brother, Willie, ran the store until “at some point less than two years later, there was some sort of an argument, and Uncle Willie packed up and moved into another store front in Phillipsburg, going into direct competition with the widow,” Bernie wrote.
Sade McMenus eventually sold her store and went into business at the Twin Oaks, less than a mile west of downtown Phillipsburg on what commonly was called the Conway Road. If the original gas station was built in 1925, as is believed, the road would have carried the designation of State Route No. 14.
The following year, it would become Route 66.
Hackler’s long-term goal for Twin Oaks?
“Get it restored kind of like it was in its heyday.”