THE HISTORY OF THE ROUNDTOP FILLING STATION IN SHERWOOD, ARKANSAS
by Darrell W. Brown, Chairman, Sherwood History & Heritage Committee
The Roundtop Filling Station, in Sherwood, Arkansas, United States, is one of only two structures in Sherwood to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Roundtop Filling Station was built in 1936 by the Justin Matthews Company for the Pierce Oil Company. Pierce Oil was one of the “baby Standards” formed after the U.S. Government’s 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 the Justin Matthews Company to construct a uniquely shaped gasoline station along U.S. Highway 67. It is believed the structure was designed by Matthews’ company architect, Frank Carmean, and was built by builder C.C. Eubanks.
Wallace David “Happy” Williford, a senior at Jacksonville High School in Jacksonville, Arkansas, and employee at another Pierce-owned station in Jacksonville, was asked by the company to come operate the new service station. Williford agreed and worked at the station before and after attending school. Williford paid men to operate the station for him during school hours, but says it was hard finding men who would only work for $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 up into the glass bowl before filling each car's tank.
Roundtop owner, W.D. “Happy” Williford holds his daughter, Judy, alongside employee, Dwight MacKenzie, in front of the Roundtop in 1947.
Around 1940, the Roundtop became a Sinclair station, after Pierce Oil was purchased by the Sinclair Oil Company. Around this time, electric pumps were installed Some time in the early 1950s, Sinclair sold many of their Arkansas stations, including the Roundtop, to the Phillips Petroleum Company, and the station became a Phillips 66 branded station. In the 1970s, the station would become 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.
The Roundtop as it appeared shortly before its closing in 1981.
In 1989, Wayne Ball, a local auctioneer, coincidentally, a former station employee from his youth, conducted the auction of the Roundtop on behalf of Williford. The winning bid was for $8,000. Unfortunately, the buyer could not come up with the money, so Williford continued to own the building. However, just a couple of years later, George E. Brown, a North Little Rock businessman, purchased the Roundtop from Williford. Brown planned to renovate the then dilapidated building; however before this could happen, Brown passed away, and, in October 2003, his heirs donated the station to the City of Sherwood, which had annexed the area in 1975.
For years, the gas station-turned-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 caused it to be listed 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 Thomasson. The scenes filmed at Roundtop include, several of the Williams character, his young chauffeur, Silas, and his love interest.
(L-R) Director of Photography James Roberson, Actor Jesse James, Director Harry Thomason and Actress Kaley Cuoco rehearse a scene for the movie, "The Last Ride," which was filmed at the Roundtop in February 2010.
Sherwood History and Heritage Committee Chairman Darrell Brown, former Sherwood Economic Development Director Kelly Coughlin, and Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman discuss plans on saving the Roundtop in June 2013.