City looks to restore abandoned gas station

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published June 13, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated June 12, 2013 at 10:36 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Roundtop Filling station in Sherwood was recently named to the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas’ 2013 list of the most endangered historic places in Arkansas. The gas station, which was built in 1936, is potentially going to become a substation of the Sherwood Police Department. From the left, Darrel Brown, Kelly Coughlin and Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman talk about future plans for the site.

— Before the interstate system, two-lane highways served as the major routes connecting the nation. Those pre-interstate years are often romanticized through word and song, like the tribute to Route 66.

Closer to home, Arkansas 161 funneled Three Rivers Edition coverage area residents to central Arkansas before U.S. 67/167 was completed. Along that route sat the Roundtop Filling Station. For some, the structure is now an abandoned gas station that attracts vandalism, but for others, the site represents a deep history of which the city of Sherwood is proud.

Darrell Brown, Sherwood’s city historian, said he has always remembered the old service station, which was annexed into the city in 1975.

“I’m familiar with the Roundtop. Living in the area, I always knew of it,” Brown said.

The Roundtop Filling Station was built in 1936 by the Pierce Oil Co., according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

The station, which hasn’t housed a business since 1981, has become the subject of vandalism and theft, Brown said, but the city of Sherwood has plans for the building that will prevent that from happening again.

Brown, along with Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman and Kelly Coughlin, economic development director for the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, have been working together to remodel the building and develop it into a substation of the Sherwood Police Department.

“[Coughlin] came to me and knew I loved history and local history and said, ‘I think it would be a great thing if we could save that building,’” Brown said.

Coughlin said she applied for a $110,500 Arkansas Historic Preservation Program grant, which would make the dream of restoring the building and making it a substation become a reality.

She said she will find out June 28 whether the grant will be received.

Before the restoration process begins, Coughlin said, termite damage will have to be repaired and the structure stabilized.

The city has to raise half the amount of the grant to “match” the funds.

“We have to come up with $55,250, and we have a year to do that,” Coughlin said.

Fundraisers are being planned and donations already are being sought, and Coughlin said she looks forward to seeing progress on the Sherwood landmark.

If the grant is received, restorations are projected to begin July 2 and be finished by Dec. 1, Coughlin said.

Becki Vassar, a former Sherwood City Council member, advocated for the restoration of the building, and Roundtop Filling Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

The building was added to The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas’ 2013 list of the most-endangered historic places in Arkansas.

“It’s very important to save this building because it’s a part of our history,” Brown said. “There’s been a lot of attempts to [save the Roundtop].”

Coughlin, who started working for the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce about a year ago, said she immediately started looking for ways to help the city.

“I looked for different tourist attractions — hidden gems that I knew had to be recognized,” Coughlin said. “I quickly realized how important [the Roundtop] was.”

She built a Facebook page for the station and said she posted a photo of the station and got 400 “likes” on the photo.

“I thought, ‘This is definitely worthwhile,’” Coughlin said. “The more we got involved in it, we heard more stories behind it.”

Coughlin said the original owner of the station, Wallace David “Happy” Williford, answered questions about the station and its history.

“[Williford] said Conway Twitty, Elvis and Johnny Cash all stopped at the station,” Coughlin said. “It used to be such a vibrant place.”

Hillman said that although she hasn’t played a direct role in protecting the old filling station, she has been supportive of the efforts.

“[Roundtop Filling Station] is the last one of its kind,” Hillman said. “It doesn’t look good in the condition that it’s in, and it will be a complement to the area once it’s restored.”

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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