The coming of the automobile brought new opportunities and challenges to the resort. Prior to the early 1900s, most guests arrived via train, with the final four miles made in a horse-drawn buggy or on a haywagon. Then came the automobile and buses, and there was freedom in choosing one’s vacation destination and the timing of that vacation that Americans had not enjoyed previously. No longer confined to train schedules, Americans could pack up and head to the resort on a whim.
One of the earliest references to a service station at the resort is a post card from the 1915-1920 period, when The New Inn was expanding its services to visitors. Several views of The New Inn, today’s Swiss Chalet, show that basic automotive services were provided there.
Photographs from the collection of Alex Zimmerman, owner of Lake Lane Cottages, document the evolution of what would become his father’s gas station on The Strip. The simple building and gravity pumps, with gasoline selling for 21 cents a gallon, suggest a date of the late 1920s. By 1933, there are photos of John Zimmerman working at the station that he would eventually come to own.
The station was located on the south side of Lake Road, immediately west of Jolly Drive. As of April 2016, the building still stands. Over the years, its most famous use was probably that of a psychic’s business.
Alex Zimmerman says his father usually opened the station in April, but he would be lucky to get one or two customers a day. The real season began with the arrival of the tourists in June and continued until September, when once again life returned to a snail’s pace in the resort town.
The family also owned and operated Lake Lane Cottages. Several of these had been inherited by Alex’s mother when the Leidheiser Lodge/farm was dispersed. John and Alice were married in 1937 and set up housekeeping in a house that John built about that time. It still stands, with an addition that came along as the family grew larger. Alice wrote a story about their expansion project for Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
John Zimmerman also clerk for the village of GOTL. This was an elected position. He also drove a school bus, served as the clerk of the Geneva Township Park and sold PPG paints and boats!
During World War II, John Zimmerman leased the gas station back to Sohio, probably because gas rationing made it difficult for independent station owners to survive. After the war, Zimmerman picked up where he’d left off, and post-war prosperity and pent-up demand for automobiles, and vacations, not to mention GI honeymoons, made the resort an excellent place to own a gas station.
The gas station received rewards from Sohio from both longevity and clean restrooms. Considering that restrooms were usually in short supply in on The Strip, the recognition received by John was well deserved.
While Alex does not recall exactly how many years his father had the gas station, we know it was at least 30 from this plaque in the family’s archives.
John Zimmerman died in 1962. Maurice Holmes owned the station after Zimmerman. Alice Zimmerman died in 2000. Alex and John had assisted her in the cottage business, but John had moved on to a career in communications systems engineering in California and John took over the cottages, which are rented by the season.
“My mom and dad took good care of this place and I can’t see any reason why I shouldn’t do the same. It’s a labor of love,” Alex says.
Drawing upon memories, maps and city directories, there is documentation for at least three other service stations at the resort:
This image is from Jack Sargent’s collection.
Placing this station is tricky. The 1935 GOTL City Directory places a Gulf station just a few doors east of the Zimmerman station, at the corner of Lake Grove and Lake Road (just west of the Cleveland Inn). If that’s the case, the hotel in the background is most likely the Pennsylvania Lodge.
The problem with the directory listing is that it identifies Zimmerman as the operator of the Gulf station, as well, a highly unlikely scenario and one not confirmed by long-time residents.
Isobel Madsen’s late-1940s cartoon map of the village shows Zimmerman’s station plus a single gas pump, without a name, to the west of Shady Beach and just after the sharp curve away from the lake, on the south side.
Locals identify this as Wycoff’s Amoco, which was open sporadically and appears to have had a relatively short life. It certainly was a bad location, considering that the visibility for motorists pulling out of the station on the curve was hardly ideal traffic flow.
Hernando’s Hideaway at the east end of The Strip offered a variety of tourist services, including gasoline. The brand of the gas sold there is unknown.
There are no gas stations in the village as of 2016. Indeed, most gasoline sales are at the intersection of the Interstate and Route 534.
We welcome your additions, corrections and memories about gasoline stations at GOTL!