Out of gas: Historic station sold and closed
The city's only historically protected service station saw the end of a more than 70-year run taking care of autos and faces a future unlikely to include lube jobs and automotive grease. The 1931 building housing the Fry's Spring Service Station, which harkens to the beginning of the auto age, has been sold, and on February 9 it closed its garage doors.
"I've been here since I was a baby," says Kristy Houchens, 37, whose father, Jimmy Houchens, has run the station at 2115 Jefferson Park Avenue more than 40 years. "I've been here all my life."
In 2007, the Virginia Landmarks Register approved the station, citing its Spanish/colonial-meets-Jefferson exterior and its Art Deco bathrooms, but its addition to state and national historic registers was held up by a family dispute when Jimmy Houchens' brother refused to sign off on the historic designation and forced the sale of the station, Houchens had previously told the Hook.
The service station had been listed for $950,000, but real estate agent Deana Cropp did not return a phone call from the Hook seeking information about the new owner and plans for the building in time for this post.
Charlottesville officials, alarmed by the December 2007 razing of the historic Beta House on Maury Avenue, put Fry's Spring Service Station on a list of individually protected properties, so any exterior work has to go through the Board of Architectural Review.
As for the historic bathrooms, "We can't protect the interior finish," says Mary Joy Scala, the city's preservation and design planner, although preservation could earn tax credits, she adds.
She plans to ask the new owner(s) to sign off on the state and national historic designations. "Everybody loves that building," she says.
The Houchens have to be out of the building by February 20, says Kristy Houchens. "It's an icon," she says. "It's kind of the end of an era."