Friday, January 16, 2015

TOP STORY >> Roundtop station restored

Leader staff writer

Construction at the 1936 Roundtop Filling Station in Sherwood has wrapped up, but crews may return if the city is awarded a third grant to repair the parking lot and add landscaping.

Darrell Brown, chairman of the city’s History and Heritage Committee, launched the $192,000 restoration project two years ago. The building is at the intersection of Trammel and Roundtop roads.

‘I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done. It’s hard to believe it’s coming to an end…It’s probably been the greatest experience of my life,” Brown said.

He added, “It’s like it’s a different building. I just can’t believe it. I think it’s something Sherwood can be proud of.”

The chairman said the parking lot project could include removing and replacing the concrete around the structure, pouring a wheelchair ramp, adding barriers to keep people from running into the station, painting lines and installing bumpers for as much as $90,000.

But, Brown told The Leader, Sherwood will probably go with a less expensive alternative, like asphalt.

For landscaping, Brown envisions a flowerbed encased by the bricks people who supported the project bought as a way to donate.

Sherwood had already received two Arkansas Historic Preservation Program grants totaling $128,000. The city’s match for both was $64,000, but a portion of the matching funds was provided through donations.

March 1 is the deadline to apply for a third Arkansas Historic Preservation Pro-gram grant that would cover the parking lot and landscaping, Brown said.

The building will eventually open as a police substation because the grants the city was awarded required that the Roundtop have a purpose.

Brown said, although cops could start using it now, they’d most likely set up shop at the Roundtop within six months — after city workers have installed the sewer line.

Brown noted, “The sooner we have people in there, the safer it makes the building.”

The project only suffered one setback that wasn’t related to the weather. It was the target of a suspected arson in early November.

Painting the scarred side and replacing three customized windows and their frames delayed the project for a few weeks.

Since then, six cameras, a security system, two floodlights and various other lights for the dome have been installed. Although the police substation won’t be manned 24/7, Brown is confident that officers will continue to keep their watchful eye on the property.

The chairman also said he would meet with Mayor Virginia Hillman Young and Police Chief James Bedwell soon to discuss how the inside of the building will be decorated and furnished.

Brown’s ideas include making use of memorabilia, historical photos and a poster from the film that was shot there in 2010.

Already in the plans is installing a counter that adds to the historical look but would also serve as a desk where officers can sit to type up reports or do other business.

Aside from the sewer line, other finishing touches include an electrician putting up replicas of old light fixtures that were ordered and outfitting the building with two bronze markers.

Southern Coating and Name Plating is donating another sign that pays tribute to the Roundtop’s late owner, W.D. “Happy” Williford. That sign will be hung with the replica light fixtures on a pole that extends from the station’s dome.

Brown said he would like to host a dedication ceremony in February, but a date has not been set.

The mayor, aldermen, city officials, contributors, architects, construction crew members and Williford’s family will be invited, he continued.

Williford, who operated the Roundtop for 36 years, passed away in March at the age of 95.

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

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 operated the Roundtop from 1936 until 1972.

He bought the station in 1957 and sold it in 1999 to George Brown.

When 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. Williford also allowed black and white people to use the same bathrooms when segregation was the practice statewide.

Two former governors campaigned at the Roundtop, and celebrities, like Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash, visited the station.

The Roundtop was also featured in “The Last Ride,” a 2010 film about Hank Williams Sr. that was directed by Arkansas native Harry Thomasson.