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The Roundtop Filling Station in Sherwood (Pulaski County), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1936 by the Pierce Oil Company. Pierce Oil was one of the “baby Standards” formed after the U.S. government ordered the breakup of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company in 1911. Pierce operated gasoline stations in Arkansas, southern Missouri, western Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mexico.
In 1936, Pierce Oil contracted with the Justin Matthews Company to construct a uniquely shaped gasoline station along U.S. Highway 67. With its mushroom-shaped roof and arched windows and doors, the Roundtop is anexample of the Mimetic/Programmatic architecture style common in smaller oil company station designs from the 1920s through the 1960s.It is believed the structure was designed by Matthews’s company architect, Frank Carmean, and was built by builder C. C. Eubanks.
Wallace David “Happy” Williford, a senior at Jacksonville High School in Jacksonville (Pulaski County) and employee at another Pierce-owned station in Jacksonville, was asked by the company to operate the new service station. As he was still a student, Williford paid men to operate the station for him during school hours but reported that it was hard to find men who would work for only $3.50 a week. For rent, Pierce charged Williford two cents per gallon of gas sold. At first, the station had no electric gas pumps, and Williford and his employees had to hand-pump the gas.
By 1957, Williford had saved enough money to purchase the station for $8,000. With business booming, Williford opened another gas station at the foot of the Broadway Bridge in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), near the site of present-day Dickey-Stephens Park. Williford later closed that station and opened another at 914 East Broadway in North Little Rock. During this time, Williford leased the Roundtop to others. He returned to the Roundtop in the mid-1970s and operated it exclusively until he retired and closed the business in 1981.
The Roundtop sported many brands throughout its life. Around 1940, it became a Sinclair station after Pierce Oil was purchased by the Sinclair Oil Company. Around this time, electric pumps were installed. Sometime in the early 1950s, Sinclair sold many of its Arkansas stations, including the Roundtop, to the Phillips Petroleum Company, and the station became a Phillips 66–branded station. In the 1970s, the station became a DX-branded station, and at the time it closed in 1981, it was a Sunoco-branded station due to Sun Oil Company’s acquisition of DX.
In 1989, Wayne Ball, a local auctioneer and a former station employee from his youth, conducted the auction of the Roundtop on behalf of Williford. The winning bidder was George E. Brown, a North Little Rock businessman. Brown planned to renovate the dilapidated building; however, before this could happen, Brown died, and, in 1999, his heirs donated the station to the City of Sherwood, which had annexed the area in 1975.
For years, the landmark sat abandoned and, over time, was the victim of vandalism and theft. In the mid-2000s, Becki Vassar, a former member of Sherwood’s City Council, advocated for the restoration of the station and ultimately secured its listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. In 2010, the Roundtop was featured in The Last Ride, a film about Hank Williams Sr. directed by Arkansas native Harry Thomason. The scenes filmed at Roundtop include several of the Williams character; his young chauffeur, Silas; and his love interest.
In May 2013, the Roundtop was named as an endangered historical structure by the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas. In June, 2013, the City of Sherwood received a $50,000 historic preservation grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) for the rehabilitation of the Roundtop. The match money for the grant was provided by private donations and funds from the City of Sherwood and the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce. Philip Quandt of Taggart Architects in North Little Rock prepared plans for the building’s rehabilitation, and PDC Construction of Little Rock (Pulaski County) was hired as the general contractor. The first phase of the project began on April 28, 2014, and consisted of securing and stabilizing the building, replacing almost every stud in the building due to extensive termite damage, replacing the concrete floors, and installing a new roof. Sherwood was awarded a second grant from the AHPP ($78,000) in July 2014 to complete the rehabilitation of the building. On November 2, 2014, however, a fire damaged the building’s exterior. The Sherwood Police Department reported it an arson attempt, but no arrests were made. The second phase of the project was completed on January 3, 2015, and the old filling station is now used by the Sherwood Police Department as its Southside Substation.
“Roundtop Filling Station.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PU2026.nr.pdf (accessed June 9, 2015).
Sherwood, Arkansas. http://www.cityofsherwood.net/ (accessed November 3, 2014).
Darrell W. Brown
Sherwood History and Heritage Commission
Last Updated 8/3/2015
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