When the late New Orleans Artist Robert Guthrie announced to his young son in 2003 that he’d decided they were moving into a gas station, the response he received was about as bewildered as one might expect. Guthrie however, an graphic artist also renowned for his beautiful watercolor cityscapes and flawless silkscreens, had a vision for the now run-down gas station that had been originally built in 1918.
By the time the 2,000 square-foot building came onto the market in 2003, it had enjoyed previous lives not only as a Sinclair Gasoline station but also a furniture-building shop and a jewelry-making studio. Though Guthrie originally imagined the old building might make an interesting art studio, his imagination eventually took hold and prompted him to perform the incredible transformation that would turn the nearly century old space into one of the most unique homes in New Orleans.
Located only 2 miles from the city’s famed French Quarter, the sparwling mid-city home received a make-over that not only made use of its space but that celebrated its original function as a gas station as well. Guthrie later revealed to Nola.com that he had had his eye on the abandoned filling station for years, as he had always taken a shining to old buildings such as gas stations and firehouses. "A lot of old gas stations got torn down, sometimes for environmental reasons." Guthrie said, "I was lucky to get one."
While the idea of decking out his new place in old gas station memorabilia was no doubt an intriguing one, Guthrie also admitted that he didn’t want the space to contain an overwhelming amount of filling station décor. Instead he chose to present the theme through a series of carefully selected accent pieces, such as an old oil can holder turned toilet paper holder in the bathroom and an old 1930’s gas pump that graces the front living area.
Guthrie also found inventive ways to make new use of some of the stations old machinery, turning an old car lift into a staircase and installing four overhead skylights to highlight the original concrete floor, still dinged from tools dropped or tossed aside decades ago. The old garage doors that once admitted cars for repair still remain in place and can instantly transform one of the walls in the spacious living area into a huge open air entrance way/window.
Though the original gas pumps had been dug out years ago, the artist replaced them with stylish concrete planters, after undergoing mandatory testing for any toxic chemicals that could’ve been left lingering beneath his home to be. Guthrie also worked his love of old circus memorabilia into his design, via large, colorful carnival banners and an old carousel tiger that seems to roam the lower level of the home.
Not only did the home end up featuring the coolest interior on the block, it also boasted a rooftop patio overlooking the city where neighbors would sometimes gather to watch fireworks.
When his project was put on hold numerous times by everything from red tape tof Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Guthrie said he made the best of the delays by allowing his imagination to run wild as he considered the possibilities for the home.
Though Guthrie passed away in 2013, it wasn’t before all his hard work paid off and he and his son were able to enjoy his last few years living in what he call "his best work of art."