Tuesday, February 02, 2010

TOP STORY >> Sherwood gas station falling down

This old gas station in Sherwood may be added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The building is suffering from years of neglect.


 Leader staff writer

Sherwood Alderman Becki Vassar hopes others share her sentiment about preserving a little bit of local history – the long-vacant filling station that sits in the midst of the intersection of Trammel and Roundtop roads on the eastern edge of town.

The spot was once a vital way station for travelers between Little Rock and St. Louis. Now, the quaint building, which in 2008 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, is badly in need of repair.

“It needs everything – it is about to fall down,” Vassar said. “Some repairs have been done on the roof, but it is in total disrepair.”

The tiny white stucco building with red trim and eye-catching turret roof is enough to spark any child’s imagination, as it did when Vassar’s children rode past more than 30 years ago, she recalled when talking about her “fond memories and big wishes” for renovating the structure.

The building is one of the few remaining examples in the state of the whimsical architectural style often chosen in the early 1900s by smaller oil company stations to attract customers.

“There are some people who think it should be torn down, but there are only two, maybe four, left in the state, and we need to do what we can to preserve it,” Vassar said.

According to accounts by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and the city of Sherwood, the filling station was constructed in 1936 by North Little Rock developer Justin Matthews for the Pierce Oil Company.

Pierce was one of several “baby Standards” formed after the breakup of the Standard Oil Trust in 1911 and operated in southern Missouri, Arkansas, western Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. Sinclair Oil purchased Pierce Oil in 1940. Photographs indicate that Roundtop later was a DX Oil Company station.

W.D. “Happy” Williford operated the station from the time it opened until it closed in 1972. During that time, Roundtop Road – the old U.S. Hwy. 67 – was a major road prior to construction of the interstate system.

“All the St. Louis-Little Rock traffic passed by it,” states the account in the city history, “The Signs Still Stay Sherwood.” “For many years, it had the only modern bathrooms between Searcy and Little Rock.”

Even so, the amount of gas sold there was very modest by today’s reckoning.

“Pumping a hundred gallons of gas in the glass-bowl pump was a big day,” Williford is quoted as saying.

Williford bought the station in 1957, then sold it in 1999 to George Brown. Brown’s heirs later made the property a gift to the city, which annexed the area in 1975.

Vassar plans to seek a grant to pay for repairs, but senses that the project may require more capital than what a grant could provide.

Her hope is that businesses with the needed expertise, labor or materials will come together to work on the renovation.

She thinks that the building could be put to use, possibly as a station for Sherwood police officers.

“I would like to put together a group of people in the community who are truly interested to raise funds or make repairs or in-kind contributions,” Vassar said.