The Death of a Corner Gas Station in Newport, Kentucky

There are any number of attractions that cause me to pull my car over and hop out with my camera – historic corner gas stations being near the top of the list. I’ve photographed the ones I know of in Lexington (my favorite is in the Woodland Triangle – now Missy’s Pies, during my father’s college days, it was home to “Anna’s We Wash” laundry), and numerous examples from across the Southeast. So I was devastated last night to see on Instagram images of a Newport, Kentucky, corner gas station, complete with red tile roof, being reduced to rubble.

The gas station at the corner of 5th and York in Newport, Kentucky.

The gas station at the corner of 5th and York in Newport, Kentucky.

According to an article in The River City News, the the City of Newport received a $272,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 2007  to move and renovate the building. But in 2014, apparently, the Newport city commission voted to transfer the grant previously allocated for the old gas station to the Riverfront Commons trail project. And the story ended with bulldzoers and senseless waste.

Photograph of the demolition from Preservation Collective,

Photograph of the demolition from the Cincinnati Preservation Collective,**

What I find most interesting are all of the holes in this story. Most grants contain language specifying the preservation in perpetuity or certain standards that must be met when dealing with a historic structure. I have no idea what this specific grant entailed, but I find it hard to believe that some sort of use (or buyer) could not be found for this building. And Newport is a Certified Local Government, with a local preservation ordinance…so restoring this building would not have been a leap of the imagination for the city. But again, I don’t know the details of this story.

A restored Texaco station in Paducah, Kentucky.

A restored Texaco station in Paducah, Kentucky.

One of the things I remember most clearly from my graduate school days (thank you Dr. Karl Raitz!) is the desirability of corners as “hot property” during the dawning of the automobile age. I might not recall the source, but if you drive around any Kentucky town, you will notice the evolution of this particular piece of real estate. During the 1920s and 1930s, gas stations and service centers claimed corner parcels to serve their customers. The corner has always been a prime spot, but even more so with the advent of vehicular traffic. So many of these corners, with their distinctive buildings (often of the “house with canopy” type) have been creatively re-used, like the Lower Town Visitor’s Center, pictured above, in Paducah, Kentucky.

One of my favorite corner gas stations in Lexington, Kentucky.

One of my favorite corner gas stations in Lexington, Kentucky.

Louisville has done a great job in re-purposing many of its historic gas stations, and even Lexington, where a giant hole occupies much of Main Street, the surviving corner gas stations are mostly occupied by businesses – and still serving to attract people traveling from multiple directions. So while I mourn the loss of such an attractive (and fun!) little building in Newport, I am awfully glad that it caught my eye on a cold February day in 2015  and I was able to photograph it before its ignominious end.


** Thanks to the Cincinnati Preservation Collective for capturing the unfortunate demolition of this building and posting the image on Instagram.

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  1. Jim McKeighen says:

    They should be ashamed! They should be made to pay the grant money back plus fined!!!

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      I would be really interested to learn about the details of the grant…

  2. Salli Jo says:

    So sad to watch history disappear.

  3. Susie says:

    Sad to see one go but love this topic! I love clever adaptive reuse of places like gas stations. If only it was more common!

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      One of these days I will get around to writing a piece about all of the gas stations I have “collected”!

  4. Paul lindsey says:

    My dad leased that corner for 40 plus years before his death in 2010…broke my heart to see these pics…

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      Such a waste of a good building! Thank you for reading!

  5. John Gilliam says:

    I live in Newport and I was actually able to salvage more than half of the tiles from the roof of this gas station. I am using them on a memorial garden structure for my wife.. Almost done with the roof. The manufacturer, Ludowici, is still in business in New Lexington. Ohio.I did not see an email to send you a picture. Enjoy your blog.

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      Thank you so much for reading! I am so glad you were able to save some pieces of the gas station. You can send me an email at

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