Old service station can still serve a purpose

Published 12:58 am Sunday, September 25, 2016

By Karen L. Hobson

Special to the Salisbury Post

Having been present at the hearing of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) last week, I feel compelled to clarify the public record.

Discussion centered around what a wonderful building will go on the corner of East Innes and Lee Streets in place of the vacant service station. Yet no design or plan was presented to HPC. There must be environmental issues on the site given its past use, yet they were mentioned only in passing. I would be remiss not to ask if we are in for another situation like that of the central school offices where a site was abandoned late in the process for environmental reasons.

Most importantly, I find it problematic that the community should be asked to tear down one of its more interesting buildings to be replaced by what? A massing plan with no specifics? The request to demolish was premature. No design for the site was presented at the hearing. HPC had no responsible option but to stay demolition of a building which is listed as “contributing” on the National Register of Historic Places. The foundation supports the decision of the Historic Preservation Commission and makes no apologies for its own position advocating the stay of demolition.

I stated in the HPC hearing that two members of the foundation’s board of trustees met with the applicants within the last six months. Stan Jordan and his partner, Todd Dagenhart, led our trustees to believe that the existing service station could be incorporated into a new building on the site. Apparently, they changed their position. While that is their prerogative, the foundation remains open to working with Messrs. Jordan and Dagenhart and their architect, Pete Bogle.

Finally, a word on the “eyesore.” The real eyesores are the building next door at 211 East Innes Street, the garage behind the service station and the parking shed along Lee Street. Although not necessarily of historic significance, the pink granite service station is an architectural gem, built of Rowan County pink granite which has a world renowned reputation. It personifies the America of the ‘30s and ‘40s era. In most other communities, it would have long since been acquired and turned into a boutique pizza parlor, coffee shop or specialty office. I hate to think that Salisbury lacks the imagination to appreciate the pink granite service station.

The outcry that the pink granite service station is holding up downtown development is a ruse, because saving architectural gems and developing downtown Salisbury are not fundamentally incompatible. The suggestion that the two are incompatible raises deeper issues about where Salisbury is headed. I will address those issues on behalf of Historic Salisbury Foundation in the next few days.

 Karen L. Hobson is executive director of Historic Salisbury Foundation.