Sunday, May 18, 2014

Woodmoor Esso

Before most of the subdivisions around Four Corners were built, the intersection of U.S. Route 29 (Colesville Road) and today's MD Route 193 (then Bladensburg Road) was just a rural crossroads.  Intersections such as these, if devoid of other commercial activity, are usually home to one thing: gas stations.  Four Corners was no different.  Gas stations were some of the first commercial establishments to open at the intersection.  The oldest station, dating to the 1930's, was located right in front of the Woodmoor Shopping Center.  It was originally called the Woodmoor Esso.

The Four Corners intersection in 1952.  The Esso can be seen at center in front of the shopping center.  This was a decade before the roads were widened.  Notice the gas stations on the southeast (next to the church) and northwest (next to the other shopping center) corners of the intersection.  
Back in the 40's and 50's, there were gas stations on three of the four corners.  There was one where the Game Stop currently is, there was one next to Marvin Memorial Church, and there was one in front of the Woodmoor Shopping Center.  The Woodmoor Esso was opened sometime in the late 1930's, and it actually pre-dated the Woodmoor Shopping Center by several years.  There were few other commercial establishments at the intersection around that time, and most of the surrounding homes were non-existent.  The Woodmoor Esso station was founded by Charles "Pop" Strosnider, who had moved east with his family from Oklahoma during the Great Depression in search of job opportunities.  

The gas station in October of 1944, before the shopping center was built.  The homes in the background still stand on Pierce Drive.  This is one of the only photos I know of that depicts this area before the shopping center's construction.  This photo and the following two courtesy of Jenine Olson Heron.

Charles Strosnider had several sons, and they founded or owned several businesses in the Silver Spring area.  The Strosnider's Hardware stores that still exist were founded by this family.  When the shopping center first opened in its current form in 1946, there was a Strosinder's Hardware store in the area now occupied by Santucci's.  The family also owned a 5&10 store (a type of gift shop) in the shopping center during its early years. 

The gas station in the late 40's with service bays added and the shopping center in the background.

Rex Yenzer, a friend of the Strosniders, bought the station from one of the family members some time in the late 1940's or early 1950's.  He lived in Woodmoor, and raised his children on Brookmoor Drive.  Under his ownership the gas station expanded, adding additional service bays to perform maintenance on cars.  Yenzer co-owned the station with Jim Borher, who eventually sold the station to his son Ronnie. 

Rex Yenzer standing in front of the station.  Part of the neon "WOODMOOR" sign on top of the shopping center can be seen in the background along with another Woodmoor sign on top of the shopping center.
The station was eventually renamed Stuart Agip's (who I assume was the last owner).  I do not know much about its later history, but the station did undergo some other alterations before its closing.  The station was closed sometime in the mid 90's (my parents have lived in Woodmoor since 1990 and they say it was still open for the first few years they lived here).  The station was ultimately closed and demolished to make way for the widening of the Four Corners intersection, which was completed around 1998 or 1999.  The road widening may not have been the only reason for its closing.  The gas station was located in a very tight space.   It was bordered highways on two sides, and the shopping center parking lot on the other side.  It had a limited number of pumps and little parking.  The station also blocked the view of many shopping center businesses from Route 29, which I imagine was disliked by those business owners.  

The site of the station is now occupied by the new sidewalks bordering the widened roads, and the shopping center parking spaces closest to the corner.  The shopping center gained at least 25 new parking spaces through the gas station's destruction.  The shopping center is also now almost entirely visible from the road, which has probably helped business.    

The gas station's removal was the beginning of the shopping center's upgrading which occurred in the early 2000's.  This included alterations to the rear parking area, painting (shame they painted over those yellow bricks), new awnings, and uniform signage.  Like downtown Silver Spring, the Woodmoor Shopping Center had gotten somewhat run down and grungy by the late 90's.  The iconic "WOODMOOR" sign on the roof frequently had letters burnt out for weeks at a time, forming some interesting new words such as "WOO MOO ".  Thankfully, that is a thing of the past.    

The current shopping center is much cleaner and better maintained than it was back then.  It's a little sad that the old gas station was destroyed, since it was a historic structure dating from before most other buildings in the area.  However, it had undergone so many alterations since its construction, it had little remaining historic value.  The removal of the station allowed for the shopping center to be improved, and it made our community a little more appealing to visitors and residents.                                  

1 comment:

  1. I was six-year-old when I sat on Santa's lap and asked him for a two wheeler at the Silver Spring Hecht Company in 1958, and he delivered a twenty inch blue bike with training wheels that Christmas. After I learned to ride sans the extra wheels, Joe (Skeeter) Conrad taught me how to use the air pump at the Woodmoor Esso. He also put playing cards on my spokes with clothes pins. I lived two doors up from the Yenzers on Brookmoor and Joe lived around the corner on Branch Drive. Those were the days!