Gulf Station at the southeast corner of Foster and West Geer, 1952
(Courtesy Wayne Henderson)
Looking east from the west side of Foster Street, 08.03.61.
(Courtesy The Herald-Sun Newspaper)
Perhaps oddly, the small former Gulf Service Station on the southeast corner of West Geer and Foster St. is one of my favorite buildings in Durham. Built in the early to mid 1930s, the service station was certainly operational through the 1970s. But it has certainly been abandoned since awhile before I first became aware of it in the late 90s.
It demonstrates a kind of gas station architecture that I've noted previously - particularly with regard to the Pure Oil stations of the 1920s-1930s - often small stuccoed structures with details more reminiscent of a small cottage than what we think of as a gas station today.
As such, this little building, though badly bedraggled, has great potential to be any number of uses - restaurant/coffee shop, bike store, comic book shop - whatever. It has enough charm - obvious even in this advanced state of disrepair - to pull it off.
Unfortunately, the building is owned by MM Fowler, whose family I believe owned all of the Gulf franchises and distribution in Durham. This is one of several great buildings that he is allowing to fall into the ground for no good reason. Others include my second favorite old gas station in Durham, on Angier Ave one block east of Driver St., and the Catsburg Store. I attempted to contact Mr. Fowler years ago to see if he would sell this through Preservation Durham, but he never returned phone calls. I know other folks have tried too.
Which is unfortunate, falling into the Fieldsian/Fireballian/Sturdivantian category of property owners that would rather see buildings self-destruct in the middle of their community than provide them with a positive future - through their own means or by selling them. I really can't find anything good to say about their 'contributions' to their city, and their seemingly irrational and antagonistic posture to their fellow Durhamites earns nothing but scorn from me.
Update, August 2010:
Amazingly, this building has been saved from the MM Fowler dereliction, and is currently being renovated by Bob Chapman. It will house a beer garden by late spring of 2011, called "Geer Street Garden, " helmed by Andy Magowan of Fowlers/Federal/Piedmont local culinary heritage.
As of May, 2011, the "Geer Street Garden" is open; it was a thrill to eat on its back patio, having watched with sadness for so long as this building deteriorated, and having very little hope that it would survive. Kudos to Bob Chapman and Andy Magowan.
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