Janesville50.9°

Eyesore or historic building?

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Ann Fiore
November 13, 2007
— One man’s eyesore is another’s historical gas station.

“I think it’s a blighted building sitting next to the city’s police station,” City Manager Steve Sheiffer said Monday.


Karl Dommershausen, a local appraiser, disagreed.


“It’s probably one of the last historic examples of a filling station in this country,” he told the Janesville City Council. “And it’s right next door.”


In the middle of the debate is the old gas station at 101 N. Franklin St.


The city proposes spending $152,000 in tax incremental finance funds to buy the property—now an auto repair shop—test it for environmental hazards and raze the building for green space.


But more people have stepped forward to protest the demolition of what they say is a World War II-era filling station.


Wisconsin Public Television recently aired a program called “Fill ’er Up: The Glory Days of Wisconsin Gas Stations.” Almost 70 Wisconsin gas stations now are listed on local, state and national registers of historic places, according to a Web page on the program.


In 2002, city staff investigated the historical value of 101 N. Franklin St. and determined it wasn’t eligible for the National Register of Historic Places due to its condition.


The Wisconsin Historical Society disagreed and said it was eligible, said Judy Adler, a city community development planner.


The Janesville Historic Commission believes the site would be perfect for a coffee shop, art gallery or visitors center, said Rich Fletcher, commission chairman.


The coffee shop idea resonated with council President George Brunner, the city’s former police chief.


“I’ve often thought it would make a beautiful coffee and doughnut shop. We could call it ‘The Precinct,’” Brunner said.


On Monday, the council authorized buying the property, 5-1, with the understanding that the demolition decision would rest with the council.


Council member Bill Truman opposed the purchase, saying the city should let the owner market the building.


The old gas station could get a second life. A group of students in the Leadership Development Academy is interested in trying to find a new use for the building.


They will have to hurry. The council likely will take another look at the building by late spring or early summer.



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