DeSoto, Missouri is a small town of some 6,000 people in Jefferson County, Missouri about 30 minutes outside of St. Louis. It’s near Washington State Park and at one time was the town that was closest to the geographical center of the United States. About the only thing the town has going for it now is a Wal-Mart Super Center that sits in the middle of town.
To get to DeSoto, you have to travel down highway 21, a twisty-curvy, poorly maintained road that used to have distinction of being called “Blood Alley” because of all the accidents that happened there. Over the past few years a lot of work has been done to straighten out the highway and make it a little safer to drive on.
I used to know a girl that lived out there back when the highway wasn’t so good, and I can speak from personal experience that going down Highway 21 at 60-miles-per-hour on a dark night is an experience to tell about. It’s not very well marked so here you are just truckin’ along when suddenly a steep curve is there right in front of you.
If you miss the turn then you slam into one of the bluffs that line the road. But I guess that’s better than trying to pass someone and hitting them head on, which also happens a lot. In the spring, bunches of flowers grace the side of the road, placed there in memory of all the people who lost their lives on that road.
So if Johm Mellencamp writes another song about small town America, it’ll probably include DeSoto somewhere in it. Recently DeSoto added another attraction to its list of distinctions. One of the town’s original gas stations has been fully restored to what it looked like many years ago.
The old gas station goes all the way back to the early 1900’s and is one of the oldest buildings in town. It was still an active gas station up until about 10 years ago. The gas station sits at north Main and Mahn in the center of the city. It has the attached service island and the original Texaco star sign.
The owner, Todd Mahn, also owns the Mahn Funeral Home which sits across the street. He originally was going to tear the old building down and replace it with a parking lot for the funeral home, keeping just the historic sign, but his son convinced him to preserve the building as well. It took about two months of hard work for Todd and his family to restore the building to its original condition.
As a matter of fact, the restoration was so authentic that many people drive up to the pumps and try to get gas. But unfortunately, they’ll be out of luck as the pumps ran dry a long time ago.