Over the years, Marblehead was home to more than 20 different gas stations, most of which were family owned. Today, there is not a single place residents can pump gas into their cars in town.
“There’s been a total of 22 to 23 places where the public could buy gas,” said Marblehead Historical Commission member and former Selectman Bill Conly.
From Naugus Head to Devereux Beach, there was never a shortage of places to get gas.
“They were all over the place,” said Conly.
At one point, there were seven stations running at the same time on Atlantic Avenue, including Shell, Texaco, Mobil, and Gulf stations. The Gulf station was running out of the same building that now belongs to Atlantic Motor Works.
Now, if residents want to get gas they have to drive to either Salem or Swampscott.
So what happened to the gas stations in town? Conly says that new environmental regulations and permits forced many of the stations out of business.
“The new rules and regulations, the families couldn’t afford this stuff,” Conly said. “They had the tanks pulled out and the ground examined for all this stuff.”
More and more stations in town began to shut down because they were not able to keep up with the new regulations financially. On March 3, 2006, the Mobil on Atlantic Avenue, run by Phil Cash Jr., became the last gas station to close its doors in Marblehead. The station, previously run by Phil Cash Sr., John A.M. Dow, and Dave Love, had been running in town since cars became widely available in the early 20th century.
Conly recalled that Cash Jr. closed the station down after being told he would have to put a convenience store at the location, and that he could no longer run a repair shop.
With new codes and flammable fluid storage being controlled by the Fire Department, the areas where gas stations once were in town are no longer permissible sites to sell gas to the public.
If residents want a public gas station again, there is only one option currently available.
“There’s only one place as far as I know that a gas station can be installed on Woodfin Terrace,” Conly said. “That’s the only place in town.”
He added that there were two predicaments facing those who want to build a gas station in town. The first is the difficulty in obtaining permits from the department and town, and the other is finding a fuel supplier.