Federal grant to help Zillah move historic Teapot Dome

ZILLAH -- A plan to move the historic Teapot Dome gas station into town -- where it would become a visitors center -- is set to get rolling this spring, thanks to a $287,000 federal grant.

Tri-Citians likely are familiar with the dome as they drive by it coming to and from Seattle on Interstate 82.

Zillah leaders began working on the idea three years ago after purchasing the historic structure for $125,000. The building has been idle about five years.

Finding the money to move and reopen the building has been tough, said Mayor Gary Clark.

"It's kind of been a long-fought battle," Clark said. "We do want to get it in town where we can keep and eye on it and take better care of it."

Built in the shape of a large teapot, the station was constructed in 1922 as a symbol of the scandals that rocked the presidency of Warren G. Harding over his order to transfer oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyo., and Elk Hill, Calif., from the Navy to the Department of Interior.

Moving the structure, now situated just southwest of town on Yakima Valley Highway, is not only costly but it also comes with many federal requirements because it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

But the federal grant should cover the cost, and engineers are studying how to move it without damaging its historic integrity.

It will be moved onto a one-acre lot on First Street near the Civic Center. The city traded another nearby piece of property of equal size and value for the site, said the city's associate planner, Ardele Steele.

Moving the structure also will require making any needed upgrades or repairs, she said.

"And it has to be done to keep it in its historic nature," she said. "It's a very ambitious plan for our town, but once it's complete, we think it will be a spectacular project."

It's hoped that the Teapot Dome will lure tourists into town where they can get information on nearby attractions, Clark said. Visitors will be able to read about the Teapot's history.

The site will eventually feature a park, benches, a parking lot and an awning over old, gravity-style fuel pumps -- replicas of ones once used at the station, Clark said.

"The idea behind it all is to make it look like a functional station so people can pull their cars up and take pictures," he said.

Once the station is moved, the city will look at ways to raise funds for the park and other features. "The city is actually looking forward to this project," Steele said. "It's a long time coming. We're really excited about it."