Government scandal was behind the construction of the 15-foot handled-and-spouted gas station. The Teapot Dome oil reserve debacle began during the administration of President Warren Harding. In 1921, by executive order of the President, control of naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming and at Elk Hills, California was transferred from the Navy to the Department of Interior. In 1922 U.S. Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall leased, without competitive bidding, the Teapot Dome fields to oil operator Harry F. Sinclair and those at Elk Hills to Edward L. Doheny of Pan American Petroleum Company. When the leases became public knowledge, Congress directed President Harding to cancel them. The Supreme Court declared the leases fraudulent and ruled Harding’s transfer of authority to Secretary Fall illegal. Although the President himself was not implicated in the transaction that had followed the transfer, the revelations of his associates misconduct took a severe toll on his healt. Disillusioned and exhausted, he died before the full extent of the wrongdoing had been determined. The transactions quickly became the subject of widely publicized Senate investigation. Secretary Fall was indicted for conspiracy and for accepting bribes. Doheny and Sinclair were acquitted of bribery, although Sinclair was subsequently sentenced to prison for contempt of the Senate. The oil fields were restored to the U.S. Government through a Supreme Court decision in 1927. It was during this in 1922 that Jack Ainsworth created his memorial in Zillah. The Teapot Dome Service Station, located about 15 miles southeast of Yakima in the City of Zillah, take exit 52 remains one of the few tangible, present day reminders of the 80-year-old scandal. The site was placed on the National Historical Register in 1985.
The Teapot Dome Service Station was originally located on Hwy. 410 between Zillah and Granger. It was handcrafted by Jack Ainsworth in 1922. He built it inspired by the Harding Administration Teapot Dome Scandal. The store next to the Teapot was the Old Dalton Trading Co. General Country Store built by Jack Ainsworths’ father in 1902. In 1928 Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Thomas purchased the Teapot. They operated the gas station along with a store fountain built on the same site. This was an era when gasoline dealers gave people something to look at and tell their friends about when they got home.
In 1978 the construction of I-82 forced the removal of the building from its’ original location. Five days before the scheduled move it was hit by a car and it was caved in. It had to be re-constructed which was no easy job because it was all hand-crafted. Fortunately, the building was reconstructed and then moved with the help of the State Dept. of Transportation some 1.2 miles to its’ current site at 14691 Yakima Valley Highway.
The Teapot has become an icon for Zillah because of its’ historical roots and longevity. In 2007, the Teapot was listed on the "Most Endangered List. In 2012 the Teapot was moved to its current location at 117 First Avenue, Zillah, Washington.
Long Term Use
Our long-term goal for the Teapot building is to bring it into the city and have it serve as a Visitor’s Center/Tourist Destination with historical information placed at the site.
Friends of the Teapot Association
Friends of the Teapot Association is committed to historic preservation and community service through education and resource acquiring methods.
Friends of the Teapot Association believes that treasuring and respect for the past leads to a brighter future. The rehabilitation of the Teapot Dome Gas Station is just the start of our mission.
The National Historic Site of the Teapot Dome Gas Station is in need of a new home and some rehabilitation. Friends of the Teapot Association would like to relocate the structure into the downtown of Zillah.
The Teapot is a heartfelt "Zillah" identity and it has been heartbreaking to see it deteriorate as it sits vacant. City of Zillah staff took it upon themselves last year to start investigating what they could do to bring the Teapot into the City to use as a Visitor/Tourism Center.
Friends of the Teapot Association think it would be beneficial to the building itself as well as to the City to place the Teapot in a location that it would be visible and accessible to the public. There, the Teapot could be watched and cared for in a way that respects the history and artistry for which it represents.
Any donations can be made at KeyBank in care of the Friends of the Teapot Association. For information, please call 509-829-5151 or 509-829-5200.