Thursday Doors–Reed/Niland Corner

Not much of a door, but I’m guessing it was a welcome sight back in the 1930s.I spent a few days visiting my brother and my mom in Iowa over the past extended weekend. My brother gave me a short tour of the area around Ames. He included a visit to a restored historic site in Colo, Iowa, where he lived when he was in college at Iowa State University (ISU), and (I think) when he was first teaching in Ames. I would have fact-checked that, but it’s really not important to the story (he can correct it in a comment if he wants to).

As you can see from the photos in the gallery, these aren’t remarkable doors, but the buildings they provide access to are significant.

Back in the 1930s, the intersection where these buildings are located was one of the most important crossroads in the Midwest. It may have still been the intersection of the Lincoln Highway and the Jefferson Highway, or perhaps it was better known as the junction of US Rt-30 and US Rt-65. The Lincoln Highway was the first east-west highway across the United States and the Jefferson Highway was an important north-south crossing.

In the 1930s, gas stations, hotels and restaurants were few and far between. The intersection of these two famed roads included one of each. Gas, food and a place to sleep, if you needed one, were all available. If you want to know what it might be like to experience that kind of a wayside stop, you need to visit that intersection today.

The site includes a restored 1930s era gas station, which serves as a museum; a restored roadside motel and an operational classic diner. My brother stopped so I could snap a few photos (he’s aware of my door addiction). I started to wander around the site when I realized that the café was open. We decided to have breakfast before continuing the tour. Unfortunately, after we were done eating, the area was being drenched in the coldest rain I ever remember falling on me. We ran for the shelter and relative warmth of my brother’s van.

I’m going to give you a break today on the word-count. Most of what I have to share is included in the descriptions of the photos in the gallery and there are a lot of photos today. Please note: My editor doesn’t review the descriptions. Any errors in those are NOT her fault.

As with every other Thursday since that First Door on March 26th, this post is part of the interesting and inspired series of Thursday Doors organized by Norm Frampton. You are encouraged to join us door nuts each week. To learn more, head on over to Norm’s blog.

74 thoughts on “Thursday Doors–Reed/Niland Corner

Add yours

  1. Cool, Dan. I love the part about gravity feeding gas into tanks. This reminds me of a lesson my daughter had recently on the Erie Canal, and the development of locks whereby the water is raised or lowered within an elevator type system. So simple, yet ingenious.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am a sucker for history. My brother is a retired history teacher. I always thought history was unimportant (when I was in school) but I became a huge fan well after graduation. Opportunities lost, but opportunities found.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ha! True, Dan, not much of a door, but honestly, this may be my favorite one yet. Because what matters in the end is not the door, but where it leads. And any kind of old-style “Route 66” type of diner or café is very appealing to me.

    I hope the food is good there, because I love the atmosphere. You can almost feel the sheer retro romance of the place through these pics. Anything that harkens back to the call of the open road works for me. Alice Ramsey had the right idea!


  3. I love those old gas pumps, and the Diner reminded me of the play “Bus Stop”. They had a freak snow storm the day the play is set in.
    The play is actually set in the Diner. I wonder if William…hum forgot the authors last name…anyway I wonder if he used this location as his muse for the play?
    Great history, and images today Dan!

    FWIW- a circular polarizer can help a lot to cut down glare, and reflections when photographing through windows.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I wish I could rewind time and walk in that era. I’ll share a secret here. Although, it will make me seem stupid. Like we all know earlier movies are in b/w. So, as a kid I used to think that the world itself used to be black and white and hence the b/w movies and probably the colors were invented in the 60s and 70s a decade before I was born. One sunny afternoon, with honesty I asked my mother. Mom, how was life before colors? She was like, what colors? I was like, this world which was colorless earlier. When everything in this world was b/w or grey. She just couldn’t stop laughing at my childish innocence. But she later explained me that only the movies were b/w, the world was always colored.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. That’s funny. That’s also a great experience to include in a story someday. I don’t think it’s stupid. We all imagine our world in various ways. If I could go back in time, I think I might enjoy it.


  4. Dan, what a charming place and worthy restoration. It’s places like this that make me believe in time travel – just looking at your photos, I could imagine the ‘buzz’ of people coming and going, bus brakes, silverware clicking, waitresses stucking pencils in their hair nets. I will look at the location on a map – having concluded that road trips from Colorado take two days before we get ‘anywhere’, Hub and I agreed we need to adjust focus and explore Nebraska, Iowa and Wyoming instead of just speeding across them because by then we’re tired of the road trip! Right now we’re on a trip of a different kind – Hub had knee replacement surgery yesterday so our trip today is down the hospital hall. He’s doing great – home tomorrow and trick or treating on Sat (well spectating, at least). 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be about an hours ride from Des Moines although I’m guessing you could cut the corner and reduce that. It’s pretty easy to imagine life in that time. Thanks for stopping by and good luck to your hubby and that knee.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you went to visit family because this was a really interesting post. I’ve never seen one of those gas pumps up close and didn’t really understand how they worked. The diner looks like a fun place to grab breakfast for sure. The post made me think about the days when you pulled in for gas and you got full service – tire checked, windows washed, and everything. Nice post. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Green Stamps! Oh my gosh, does that take me back. We kids used to lick the stamps and put them in the books for my Mother. I used to look through the catalog all the time.
        She scored our glasses, dinnerware, probably the flatware too, and many our Christmas gifts using Green Stamps. Of course we thought it was Santa Claus then. Wow. I hadn’t thought of Green Stamps in decades! Thanks for tripping the switch to open that memory.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pictures from a different era. How fast life has changed in such a short period of time. Those pumps are SO cool! Again it is good to see someone preserving history instead of tearing things down. And as for mistakes? I didn’t see any. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. (smile) Love, Amy <3

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s amazing how these “door” posts bring out such a variety of ideas. I am forwarding this post to my husband, since we will be spending time in Iowa not only this winter, but probably for a longer stretch of time in the next couple of years. I can feel a road trip coming on. Thanks for the travel guide. :-D

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The old fashioned full service gas stations were awesome places, bringing lots of memories back. When kept so well it becomes like a museum, including so much history. Mom said the Texaco gas station attendants were so quick and friendly. She described their white uniforms with logo on pocket of tucked in shirt.
    I really liked this post, Dan. Not too many around either. Great times spent in Iowa and I enjoyed hearing about the famous Niland/Reed corner. The diner was truly special with memorable icons featured, too.
    I used to collect memorabilia, Dan. Antique tin signs, old coke and other old soda bottles. We had a soda fountain “bar” in our (built in 1999 with last husband) basement which displayed those old cut glass tall “V-shaped soda glasses, we had root beer, orange crush and coke float “parties” with our teens. I had old Quaker Oats bowls, too. When we had our moving sale, I was happy when collectors bought who were really going to hang things, less happy with those who were buying to resell them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like a cool bar Robin. I would hate to have to sell stuff like that, especially to people planning to resell. I remember the spiffy service station attendants. So much has changed. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience in the comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Old gas pumps and dinners, really I love that. During our first cross country trip in the early 2000s, I fell in love with these sights. The period was far from being perfect but there is something so American and irresistible for me, born in France. Thanks for the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember finding places like this when our family traveled prior to the Interstate highways bring built. We spent hours and hours driving from one little town to the next. We always knew where we were stopping for lunch and it was s big deal. Of course, even in the 50s and 60s, the pumps were more modern, but nothing like the self-serve desks today. Thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed it.


Add your thoughts or join the discussion. One relevant link is OK, more require moderation. Markdown is supported.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: