NEWS- Flushed: Historic bathrooms don't make landmarks register
Fry's Spring Service Station was poised to become the first gas station to make the venerable Virginia Landmarks Register. Once a nomination goes to the two Department of Historic Resources review boards that meet quarterly, it's pretty much a shoo-in for the Virginia register and then the National Register of Historic Places.
After the June 6 meeting, the Moonlite Theatre in Abington became the first drive-in on the list, but there was no Fry's Spring Service Station with its historic art deco bathrooms.
"They did pull that nomination at the last minute," says Randy Jones at the Department of Historic Resources. "Something had to be resolved with the deed."
According to Jones, Steve Houchens, one of the brothers who own the station, called and asked that the service station's official historic status be delayed until the review boards meet again in September. "We hope it's a delay," says Jones. "We really want to move forward, but we would not without the owners. We obviously don't want to get in the middle of something, but we'd love to have this on our registry."
"I can't comment on that," says Houchens. He declined to discuss making the service station his father bought in the 1970s a historic landmark. "I've been advised not to comment on anything to the Hook magazine on the advice of my attorney," he says.
His brother, Jimmy Houchens, who runs the garage, was unaware it had been flushed from the list of nominees. He says the station is still in his deceased mother's name, and that his brother wants his inheritance out of the station.
"I'm assuming it's going to be in court," says Jimmy Houchens. "He's suing, saying my mother didn't own the station when she wrote up the lease" for the station.
Jimmy Houchens believes the station will end up sold because he doesn't have enough money to buy his brother's share.
And he hoped the historic designation would help preserve the building. "I guess I was somewhat disappointed, but everyone tells me it's probably better," says Houchens. "I guess they'll tear it down and put up a pizza parlor."
Preservationists are hoping that isn't the future for the 1931 Spanish/colonial-revival style station, a landmark from the early days of automobile culture.
City planner Mary Joy Scala says she was told the nomination would be deferred until the deed matter is cleared up, and that both brothers are in favor of historic designation. "I'm really hoping it'll go through," she says.