Out of gas: Historic station sold and closed

Kristy Houchens worked with her dad at Fry's Spring Service Station for 20 years.

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.

Jimmy Houchens in 2007 felt the end of the station was near.

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."


Plaster and stucco and grease and oil HISTORIC Get Real

What a loss! Great people, great place.
And it's just stuffed with antiques--those dozens of old model cars--what's going to happen to them? They belong in a museum.

We've already lost one wonderful historic building the Beta House hope we will not lose another. Ms Scala is right. This is a much loved neighborhood landmark and one I'll fight to save !

It could really? use a paintjob.

"This is a much loved neighborhood landmak and one I'll fight to save!"

Maybe I'm a poor excuse for a citizen, but I fail to see where you have a personal right to determine what is done with someone else's property. How about you buy it and save it rather than try to force the individual who bought it to do what you want done with the property?

A paint job? Grease? Look beyond that people. The neighborhood needs to preserve some of its beautiful buildings and landmarks. Thank God! We don't need another ugly brick duplex or some fast food restaurant. IMO it is the only attractive building at that intersection. Shame on those who can't see otherwise and shame on those who have methodically ripped down the beautiful architecture in this neighborhood!

So to YOU it's Plaster and stucco and grease and oil. But to many it's historic in a sense of being a landmark and it's a symbol of a era.
When cleaned up and painted maybe even YOU will understand !!!

Reality Bites-- there's a concept called stewardship. You might want to look into that.

Our shared history involves all of us. History matters. Don't want to own a beloved landmark or historic structure? Then don't. But if you do, be prepared for people to use their right of free speech to criticize you if you want to demolish it to get a quick buck.

that place would always have cars parked in front of it, which was extremely dangerous for those wanting to turn onto JPA. traffic safety should be considered here.

ScubaChipmunk, I drove through that intersection on a daily basis for over two decades. I never saw a car parked in any manner whatsoever that created a traffic hazard. I think you might possibly be confusing an eyesore (in your mind) with a traffic hazard. For God's sake, don't kick these honest decent hard working people around with some fabrication of a traffic hazard.

Let's hope the new owner isn't UVa - they might erect a 10 - story parking garage around and above it.

Having driven through this intersection for the last three decades, I heartily agree with ScubaChipmunk that the cars parked parallel to JPA at the garage certainly blocked visibility for drivers on Maury Avenue attempting to turn right on red onto Fontaine. As much as I love the garage, my first though upon hearing it was going to close was that finally the visibility might improve at this intersection. Of course, this visibility problem is due to the fact that JPA is coming up a hill and turning a corner as it approaches this intersection.

So, now the truth shines though. Vehicles parked there are a mere inconvenience for those who are in a rush to get through that darn nuisance traffic light and intersection. The right turn on red law says you can do so when it's safe to do so, it doesn't say it is a God given right that people exercising their own rights should not interfere in. I'm sorry their parking customer's cars on their property caused you a delay of 10 to 20 seconds getting through the traffic light if you had to wait for the green to turn safely.

The right turn on red is one of the worst traffic laws ever passed in the State of Virginia. To the majority of drivers, it simply means slow down a little bit, look to the left quickly, and go for it if approaching traffic is at least 30 to 40 feet away.

Furthermore, if the parking did legitmately created a hazard to motorists turning right onto Fontaine Avenue, the city traffic department had an obligation to put up "No Turn On Red" signs. Instead of blaming the service center, why not blame the City of Charlottesville?

This would be a great brothel. I envision a positive place where girl's from Mr. Jefferson's academical village could sunbathe and study on the roof by day, resting and eating local food. At night, they work to help pay for tuition in these tough economic times. Gentlemen scorned by Charlottesville's liberal prudish women could drive up to the valet. Durty Nellys could serve as a Gentleman's lounge and sell tickets to the brothel.

To get to the heart of the property rights issue, just ask this hypothetical: What if the owners decided to raze the building and place a bank branch or sandwich shop or car wash there? How would the city react? This "Charlottesville officials" and "Board of Arch. Review" deal is a crock. Where was the Board of Architectural Review when the downtown circus tent was built? And "stewardship?" Come on, this is someone's property...stewardship is a liberal catch-all word for government's excuse to dictate what one is to do with one's property. Bogus, bogus, bogus.

If you "stewards of other people's property" want lovely architecture, then buy the old lot down the street (next to the beautiful gas station) where the Chinee restaurant was, and build your lovely art-deco blah-blah-blah there. I like Dave's brothel idea much better.

Now, I am off to Flirt on 14th Street to buy me some bloomers!

Sure, everyone has rights. But we all also have responsibilities. In civilized societies, individual rights and collective responsibilities co-exist. Unless, of course, you're one of those knee-jerk Libertarians in which case you don't give a darn about anyone but yourself. If so, you should just going on doing whatever it is your sort does.

Either you "get" the concept of preservation, or you don't. You don't. But I'll bet you enjoy Monticello, the Grand Canyon, the Blackfriar's Theatre, the Smithsonian, Natural Bridge, ad infinitum. All examples of things that have been or are still owned by SOMEBODY, but have been preserved for the benefit of all because it's part of our shared heritage, history, community and so forth.

Without the BAR and city preservationists, this would be a vastly different town, and NOT one you'd care to live in. You reap the benefits of their hard work every day, but are just to ignorant to know what you're looking at.

Of all the great armies of rock fans, few can match the devotion of Bruce Springsteen's. For them it's not just catching just one show-it's about catching them all. Anyone who has experienced Springsteen in concert will testify that the bond between audience and artist transcends the usual adulation. Something magical, almost mystical happens. Some might describe it as spiritual-most definitely it is life affirming. It is in trying to nail this phenomenon that the beautiful hardbound For You has arrived.
Edited by Lawrence Kirsch and replete with an amazing welter of outstanding photographs, it's a mind-blowing collection of thoughts and stories from fans of every age and many nations, each explaining why Springsteen occupies such an important place in their hearts. Covering all four decades of Springsteen's career it is possibly the ultimate fanzine for it is the fans who have made the journey and whose words tell us as much about them as they do about Springsteen. The warmth and humanity that flows from every page is truly moving and provides a beacon of hope from which we can all draw strength in these hard times. Not a book to be read at one sitting but rather to revisit and enjoy over time.

hey,this was some really great memories.
i'll be catching the show at uva next week. traveling from philly with a buddy.
god bless bruce an the e street band.
long live danny in our hearts

It certainly does evoke some memories.A friend of mine and I drove from Staunton up to Richmond on August 14, 1970; we arrived on the top of that parking deck near the end of Mercy Flight's set. Not knowing any better, I assumed that the band I was hearing must be Steel Mill; this was one good rock band. Then they finished their set. I thought we had missed the show. I remember Richard telling me we were about to get a real treat. At that moment Steel Mill appeared on stage.They were led by a guy with hair almost down to his waist. The first song they played was a cover of "Dancing in the Street". WOW !!!! I was floored. Then the "little guy" with the long hair stepped up to the microphone and apologized, saying the song was sloppy and they promised to do better. BETTER ????? He and the band then backed up that statement. It still ranks as one of the best concerts that I ever seen or heard in almost 40 years of rock concert experiences.One show not mentioned in this article was a free concert at VCU on Valentine's Day, 1972. The headliner was Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks. The warm up act was some "new" band, The E Street Band......never heard of them.Uhhhhh....It was obvious that most of the folks in the VCU gym that night knew who these guys were because they were going nuts.It hit me like a bolt of lightning when the front man for this E Street Band put on his electric guitar and started to play. The songs were different but I knew the sound of that guitar.......it was that "little guy" with the long hair from Steel Mill. It was another night of music to remember. I know that Dan Hicks and company put on a great performance, but I was so impressed by this E Street Band that I really only remember that set. There was a medley of songs from Chuck Berry and Wilson Pickett that sealed the deal for me with the E streeters. And I also caught the Mem Gym show. The sound that night was (is) the sound that most folks have come to identify with Bruce and the E Street Band. But that night on the parking deck in Richmond; that was THE SHOW.

I was at that 11/74 Bruce show at Memorial Gym. They did a one hour encore starting with "Quarter to Three" by Gary Bond. I also knew Jimmy Fama back then from the McCormick Road dorms our first year. Some may remember the great band I played with then, the Screaming Targets, with Steve Pentecost, Sandy Gray and Paul Hammond. Sometimes we did a reggae set as the "Uptown Rulers" with Charlie Pastorfield on guitar and Danny Bierne on bass. Great times...

Regarding the Clearwater riot. I was there with bandmates, guitarist Chip Broder, sadly departed, and drummer Jeff Jones, now an expatriot in the U.K. Both were arrested for doing nothing by an "undercover" described as an big dumb overgrown child. The power was cut, and Vinnie on drums was going, "bum ba DUM, bum DA da, bum ba DUM, BAM BAM", repeating it over and over, because the cops couldn't "unplug" Vinnie. The crowd screamed in time with Vinnie's phrasing: "F" the pigs, *bum DA da*, "F" the pigs, *BAM BAM*" / "F" the pigs, *bum DA da*, "F" the pigs, *BAM BAM*" It was something, and the crowd was totally vamped against the cops cutting the show when it was peaking at 10:00 p.m. or so, whenever the "curfew" took effect. I don't recall anything other than Vinnie on drums after the power was cut. I remember that it was the Red Bank Police who broke up the party. Allegedly, they were all ex-marines, a prerequisite of employment with them. One cop stood on the stage and just growled at the crowd. He was sort of a performer, glaring and growling at the crowd. There was a bus outside that took in the arrestees. Lots of busts for possession or use of MJ. A doctor on the bus checked my buddy's hearbeat, and you have to remember it was a type of police riot, and said to him, "Rapid hearbeat, he's under the influence." Busted on that alone. I don't remember who the cop was who got "pushed" over off the stage, meaning from altitude; but whoever it was, maybe even Chief McCarthy himself, I don't remember, but he was climbing up over the back of the amps to get onto the stage, and one of the band members, either Vinnie or Danny, allegedly pushed the amp he was climbing on, tipping it enough to let the cop's weight teeter it over the edge of the stage, and WHAM,fall over to the cement. The cops were waiting at a later gig at Monmouth College to make an arrest. I'll never forget it. Bruce pointed out on mike that the cops were waiting. I think it was during "Resurrection" (Hail, Hail). Nor will I ever forget seeing Dr. Zoom do a real battle of the bands with the original Allman Bros. at Asbury's Sunshine Inn. I don't remember when, but it was still Dr. Zoom at that time. Both bands had the same personnel: 2 drummers, 2 guitarists, keyboard and bass. First the Allman Bros. played for a couple hours, then a long break, then Dr. Zoom and his Sonic Boom played for a couple hours +. We got home so late, I got grounded forever, but it was worth every second. A very magical time that unfortunately has passed, except for those memories that remain. Hey, does anybody remember Sunny Jim in Monmouth County?