A year ago the City Council discussed tearing down the small brick building that sits at the corner of Carroll and Main streets, but a group of people came to its defense.
Now the building known as Sinclair Station is headed for preservation.
“I am elated,” said Ellie Loudermilk, director of the Perry Area Historical Society. “I don’t think every old building should be saved, but something that has historical value for the next generations to come and they will not be able to see something like this except in pictures should be saved.”
The building, constructed in the early 1930s during the depression, was one of the first true service stations in the city, she said. People from the North puttered up to the pumps there in Model T Fords to fill up on their way to Florida. It was on the Central Dixie Highway, which was part of the Dixie Highway system that served as the primary north/south route in the Eastern U.S. at the time.
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Although the building is only 12 feet by 20 feet, it played an important role in the city’s history, said Loudermilk, as the burgeoning auto industry and tourist travel spurred economic growth when people needed it the most.
When the council talked about tearing it down, she and others argued that it should saved, and the council said they would if the supporters would contribute to saving it.
The city gave a deadline of this December to come up with the money or the building would be torn down. In November, Loudermilk presented a check for $59,000 to the city, which is enough to cover half the cost of preserving the building. The city, which has owned the building for years, will pay the rest. The Historical Society also got over 1,000 people to sign a petition to save the building.
The city received a low bid in March of $118,575 from McWright LLC to preserve it, which will include putting a vintage Sinclair gas pump in front of it. Sinclair was the brand of gas the station sold. Loudermilk hopes someday to put a vintage car at the building.
City Manager Lee Gilmour said after the donation was given to the city, McWright reaffirmed its bid price and he expects City Council will vote to approve the bid at its first meeting in January, and work can begin.
Loudermilk said the station was constructed by Henry Matthews when he was a young man engaged to be married. He built a second floor as an apartment for him and his bride, but his in-laws didn’t like that idea. His in-laws lived in a house next door and they gave the couple half of their home, so no one ever lived in the apartment. Matthews, who later built a second station, owned the station up until 1978 when he retired. For many years it was a barbecue restaurant, with a cooking area built onto the back and a drive up window on the front. The city later bought it and built a chain-link fence around the front out of concerns about the stability of the canopy.
Part of the restoration will remove the additions for the restaurant and return it to its original state. Gilmour said the restoration will only stabilize the building, and it will take more money to make it usable. The use is something the council will determine later, he said, but Loudermilk wants it to be a veterans museum.
The city plans to turn the area behind it into a veterans park, including a reflective pool, and work on that is expected to begin sometime in 2019. Loudermilk said her vision for the museum is one that would primarily remained closed and viewed through the windows. The large, plate-glass windows would allow a complete view of the building, but she said people could go in by request.