Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TOP STORY >> Roundtop’s revival taking shape

Leader staff writer

Construction has started for phase one of the $164,000 effort to restore the historic Roundtop Filling Station in Sherwood.

Phase one of the two-phase project includes stabilizing the old gas station at Trammel and Roundtop roads, replacing the roof and work on the slab as well as the plumbing.

That is according to Darrell Brown, chairman of the city’s History and Heritage Committee and the driving force behind the project.

Phase two, which is mostly renovating the interior of the 360-square-foot building off Hwy. 161, will start in August if Sherwood is awarded a second $50,000 matching grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Phase one is being covered by the first $50,000 grant the city received through the program. Sherwood’s match — private donations, a $12,500 chamber of commerce contribution and city funds — was $25,000, and the same amount will be needed for the second grant.

Sherwood will know early next month whether it received the second grant, Brown said.

He added that top program officials have told him “they are committed to seeing this project through.”

Brown said, “I feel that was a very good sign.”

The entire project could be wrapped up by late fall, he continued.

PDC Construction of North Little Rock put in the winning bid for the first phase of the restoration project.

The chairman said his father might donate some Grapette Soda memorabilia because several elderly residents have said the Roundtop used to sell the “coldest around.”

And Sinclair Oil has agreed to donate some décor too, Brown said.

The old pump stations will not be replaced for fear of vandalism, he explained, but there may be one placed inside the structure.

Many passing motorists have stopped to ask the construction crew about the work, Brown said. He left information on its history for the crew to give people who stop by.

Also, the Roundtop will be used as a police substation because one of the grant requirements is that it must have a designated purpose.

One of the police officers who will be using the facility has suggested painting a mural on the wall of the main room that mimics the inside of a 1930s gas station, Brown said.

The Roundtop, built in 1936, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Last year, it was named one of the top 10 most endangered historic places in the state by the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas.

And the surrounding community has come together to make sure the beloved landmark gets off that list.

Fraley Roofing in North Little Rock is donating labor for the roof.

Arkansas Airflow in Sherwood is donating the HVAC system and the labor to install it.

W.D. “Happy” Williford operated the Roundtop for 36 years, from 1936 until 1972. Williford passed away in March at the age of 95.

Real estate tycoon Justin Matthews built the station for the Pierce Oil Company after the federal government broke up the Standard Oil Company in 1911.

The landmark later became a Phillips 66, a Sinclair gas station and a DX station. It had three pumps.

Williford bought the Roundtop in 1957 and sold it in 1999 to George Brown. Darrell Brown and George Brown are not related.

When George Brown passed away, his heirs gave the building to Sherwood.

Roundtop Road was once Hwy. 67, the main thoroughfare from Bald Knob and Searcy to Little Rock and North Little Rock. People from St. Louis also drove it.

The station was the only place that had public bathrooms between Searcy and Little Rock.

Two former governors campaigned there. Celebrities, like Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash, visited the station. Brown said he wants their pictures to hang on the Roundtop’s walls.

The station was featured in “The Last Ride,” a 2010 film about Hank Williams Sr. that was directed by Arkansas native Harry Thomasson. Brown also said he hopes some movie posters may be put up inside the building once it’s finished.

Donations for the restoration project are still being accepted and are tax deductible.

Donations can be sent to “Save the Roundtop Campaign” c/o Sherwood City Clerk’s Office, P.O. Box 6256, Sherwood, Ark., 72124
Please write ‘Roundtop’ in the memo line of any checks.

Also, bricks that will displayed at the station once restoration work is completed are being sold for a donation of $100 or more.

For more information, visit “The Historic Roundtop Filling Station, Sherwood, Arkansas” Facebook page or http://www.RoundtopSherwood.com/.