In 1977, Archie Bentz bought and took over operations of the wonderfully unique Texaco station, 215 E. Main St., St. Charles.
During his 13 years of business in St. Charles, Bentz had been an award-winning “Shining Star” in the Texaco dealer organization.
In the late 1980s, Mobil started taking over many of the stations that were sold or traded from Texaco. Mobil had wanted to eliminate its competition in such a way that when Bentz spoke out at a dealers convention about unfairly priced products to its retailers and the lack of support with the environmental issues surrounding the disposal of used waste oil, Mobil offered to sell Bentz the station.
Mobil and Bentz worked out and agreed upon a purchase price. Bentz secured financing. As part of the sale Mobil insisted on one condition: that Bentz would be responsible for any and all contaminations from both the past and the future. In response, Bentz insisted that a new test be conducted on the site even though the gas tanks had been replaced in 1981 and the property had been tested in 1986 with the results being good. By 1989, the EPA had enhanced the rules to require boring through the limestone bedrock to groundwater level.
It is at this point that many rumors started over issues involving Bentz and contamination of the location. Though testing of the groundwater revealed contaminations running in an underground stream, further testing confirmed that Bentz’s station was not the source. After all the testing was complete, the EPA demanded a cleanup and Bentz could not move forward with the purchase.
Despite Bentz being vindicated as a potential source, the EPA held Mobil responsible for the remediation and because of this Mobil closed the station on Jan. 31, 1990.
Recognizing that Mobil had no interest in the building at all and had plans of tearing it down, Bentz and Charles McCornack’s descendants began to seek out historic recognition and the bronze landmark plaque.
Bentz also began to collect McCornack artifacts, photos, blueprints and other information in order to donate them to the St. Charles Historical Society Museum.
In January 1990, Bentz’s Texaco was closed and for 10 years the building sat vacant.
The site would no longer service vehicles or sell gasoline, but it would once again serve the community as the home for the St. Charles History Museum.
Many thanks to Bentz’s efforts in saving a historically significant building for the future generations of St. Charles.