Full-service since 1909
“Service!” shouts the filling station attendant. With the driver sitting comfortably inside their vehicle, the crew of Reighard’s get to work pumping gas, cleaning the windshield, checking the fluids and tire pressure. This detailed level of full-service hospitality has gone unchanged since 1909 making it the oldest continual operating gas station in America.
Altoona, Pennsylvania, located about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh, has been Reighard’s home base for more than a century.
Altoona was a town was created specifically by The Pennsylvania Railroad in 1849 to extend the railroad west over steep mountain ridges. The world-famous “Horseshoe Curve,” built entirely by pick and shovel to overcome the barrier posed by the Allegheny Mountains, is an engineering marvel. The Horseshoe Curve National Historic Site is 5 miles from Reighard’s. The original Pennsylvania Railroad Shops and Railroaders’ Memorial Museum are about a mile away.
This placement has ultimately allowed Reighard’s to evolve with the times.
Before the days of self-service stations, motorists had to purchase cans of gasoline from pharmacies or blacksmith shops, which is what Reighard’s first opened as in 1909 — a blacksmith shop for the Baker Estate. Elias Baker was an early ironmaster. You can still visit Baker’s 1849 mansion, a stone’s throw away. A year after Henry Ford introduced the Model T, Reighard’s decided to make a change and operate solely as a gas station. Leaning into its access point on a railroad line, they had gasoline delivered via rail car consistently making them a popular ticket in town.
Fueling up here has become not just a local tradition, but also a bucket list stop for those exploring the Two Lane backroads of America.
While Reighard’s full-service hospitality allows you to remain in your vehicle, customers are encouraged to hop out and explore the main building constructed out of cinder blocks and concrete shingles, which date back to the steam engine era. Walk inside to find black and white photos of the station’s automotive history on the wall amongst other artifacts, like the original safe! Out back there’s a garage with 10 large wooden barn doors that used to hold horses being fitted for new shoes during its blacksmith days.
The hospitality doesn’t stop at the pump!
You got to give it up to the attendants standing strongly out in notoriously harsh Pennsylvania winters making sure people’s windshield are ice-free for the road ahead! Not only are they performing a job, but they’re also creating a customer experience.
They give free hot coffee to truckers as they wait for the diesel to pump. On special occasions, everyone gets a bag of local Benzel’s Pretzels. At Christmas, customers can expect a few gooey Mallo Cups, made just a short drive down the road, to be handed to them through the front window along with novelty wooden nickels or postcards. Dogs get treats every day!
More than 100 years later, Reighard’s has found a way to remain a thriving business thanks to fourth-generation petroleum distributor, Martin Oil, who purchased the business from the Reighard family once they retired in the 1980s. While ownership may have changed, the name and exceptional service have not.
What we appreciate about places like Reighard’s are that they were one of many gas stations that helped create driving culture in America. Before apps did all the work, the only way you could get where you needed to go was by taking a map to a gas station to get directions. Businesses like this are proof that there are still a few places that haven’t disappeared with the times — that it’s possible to go back in time when you travel on Two Lanes.
For more of our top picks for Two Lane adventures in northeast America check out: