Teapot Dome Gas Station in Zillah Reflects the Biggest American Scandal 100 Years Ago
These are the reasons why the Teapot Dome was built in Zillah, Washington.
When I was in the 7th grade, my English class had to pick one of the United States to do a presentation. I chose Washington state! Part of our class assignment was to reach out to the visitor centers of our chosen state and ask for tourism pamplets. We also had to talk about cool landmarks. For some strange reason, I didn't even learn about the Space Needle in Seattle. I learned about the Teapot Dome Gas Station in Zillah. This probably happened because I was a huge nerd who was obsessed with reading the Encyclopaedia Brittanica (remember those books, they were "Google" before Google was a thing)!
I didn't research the reason why the Teapot Dome was created, I just focused on the unusual architecture of the building and that it was so cool to look at!
Some 30 years later, I have discovered that the Teapot Dome was built as a tribute to the SCANDAL of the 1920s! I am sure most native-born residents of Washington already know the history of the Teapot Dome gas service station, but for those of us who don't, keep reading!
Picture it: 1920s Siciily!
Just kidding, that is my Golden Girls reference.
Anyway, picture it: 1920s America! The President was Warren G. Harding and one of his Cabinet members, a dude named Albert Fall, was the Secretary of the Interior. (We now have the first Native American person to serve as the S.O.T.I., shout out to Deb Haaland!)
Albert Fall was shady as sh*t! He hooked up his oil buddies to get first dibs on producing their oil (petroleum) at the three cheapest places in the U.S. Come to find out, Albert had finangled his way into convincing the powers that be to make public oil refineries become privately-owned (shout out to capitalism). Albert didn't give any other oil companies this opportunity however, that was VERY LEGAL. Petty, but LEGAL.
This private hookup ticked off an oil guy in Wyoming because he didn't get the chance to get his hands on the deal. So he slid into his Senator's DMs. This lead to that Senator wrangling up some other Senators for a committee investigation on the matter.
While the Senate investigation was happening, somebody broke into one of the senators' offices and tore some stuff UP! The culprit(s) was searching for documents that could prove Albert Hall was INNOCENT.
Come on, man, that's a dead giveaway!
So all signs pointed to ALBERT FALL making important documents "disappear". Maybe he ate them? (HA!)
Whilst all this is going on, the Senate committee started doing more digging around at Albert. He was looking EXTREMELY SUS!
Meanwhile, Albert started living like a baller. He paid off his substantial debts and upgraded a few of his cribs (his house and a huge ranch). People everywhere started wondering where he was getting all this "new money", living like a Bridgerton!
A very nosy reporter in Albuquerque started sniffing around to find out where Albert's new influx of cash was coming from. He found out Albert had taken back-door bribes (worth about $7 million dollars in today's money). I would be suspicous, too, if somebody I knew became a millionaire practically overnight and hadn't won the lottery or received an inheritance! When folks started asking him about where he got that money from, Albert was like, new phone, who dis?
Here's where the millions of dollars came from: Remember those 3 companies who received the contracts to lease the cheap refineries? They hooked Albert up with that money (in the form of no-interest bank loans, gifts, cash,) and prizes in exchange for getting them those leases! They made it rain on him, so to speak, and that was all VERY ILLEGAL!
You were shady for that, Albert Fall, you were shady!
He tried to hide his tracks but that reporter from Albuquerque snitched all his findings to the Senate!
This political scandal was the biggest thing in the news during those times. Can you believe that happened almost precisely 100 years ago?
Albert ended up going to the big house for accepting those bribes. He took the hit for the companies that paid him, who to this day have never had to face any repurcussions. (That's seriously messed up!)
And that, my friends, is why we have this cute little relic of that scandal from the 1920s.
The old Teapot Dome Gas Service Station is now the Zillah Teapot Visitors Center at Teapot Dome Memorial Park, managed by the City of Zillah. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
And yes, they even have a brochure about it!