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Group raises $59,000 to save historic Georgia gas station

December 31, 2018

PERRY, Ga. (AP) — Fenced in as a potential safety hazard, the vacant former gas station where Depression-era motorists once fueled their Model T Fords in this rural Georgia city was facing demolition until a group of preservationists raised $59,000 to help save it.

Now the city council in Perry plans to vote in the coming weeks on approving a company’s bid to stabilize the historic 1930s brick building at the corner of Carroll and Main streets. The director of the local historical society calls it a victory for saving a piece of Perry’s history that otherwise would be remembered only in old photographs.

“I am elated,” Ellie Loudermilk, director of the Perry Area Historical Society, told The Telegraph of Macon. “I don’t think every old building should be saved, but something (like) that has historical value for the next generations to come.”

The small building only covers about 240 square feet (22 sq. meters). Loudermilk said it was constructed by Henry Matthews, who sold gas there — largely to motorists passing through on trips to Florida — until he retired in 1978. A new owner opened a barbecue restaurant there for years. Now the property is owned by the city, which surrounded the historic gas station with a fence because of fears the structure’s canopy is unstable.

The city council in Perry, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Macon, was discussing tearing down the building a year ago when Loudermilk and other preservationists argued it should be saved. City officials agreed to preserve the structure if preservationists helped pay the cost.

The historical society met a December deadline to deliver its $59,000 check, enough to cover about half the cost of preserving the old gas station.

City Manager Lee Gilmour said Perry officials will decide later how to use the former station, noting that further restoration work will need to be done once the building is stabilized.

The city plans to turn the area behind it into a veterans park with a reflective pool, and that work is slated to begin in 2019. Loudermilk said she would like to see the old gas station become a veterans’ museum.

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Information from: The Telegraph, http://www.macontelegraph.com

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