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Sinclair Station

Updated: May 19

In the city of Perry, in the early 1930s, there was a young man by the name of Henry Matthews who was about to get married. The automobile industry was starting to boom at that time, and Matthews embarked upon his first business venture—a gas station. He figured he’d kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by building a second story on to the gas station where he and his new bride, Mattie, could live. His parents, however, wouldn’t hear of it.

The gas station was located on family property, and Matthews’ mom and dad’s home was right next-door. His parents proceeded to build a divider in their home, turning it into a place where Henry and Mattie could live in their own private area on one side of the house while the parents lived on the other. That upstairs portion of the gas station would never be used for anything other than storage.




This was the beginning of what, years later, would lead to the Sinclair station becoming a piece of the Perry Area Historical Society. The organization’s president, Ellie Loudermilk, spoke candidly with Houston Home Journal the day after the official ribbon cutting had taken place for the structure that the citizens of Perry saved from demolition.


"The design of it is a national icon having been built in the depression era,” Loudermilk said of the service station that was erected in 1931 and operated as a gas station by Matthews until the 1950s. "Transportation and travel had just begun. There were not a lot of cars on the road, so whenever folks needed gas, there might be a gas pump in front of somebody’s house or one in the middle of the street downtown, but there were no such things as gas stations.”

In 1930, according to Loudermilk’s historical overview, Henry Matthews saw the trend of block style stations cropping up in different areas, so he got an architect to design the Sinclair station in the same way. "Mr. Henry was pretty progressive to have seen that design and made that as a choice of design for a gas station,” she pointed out. "It was utilitarian to say the least. You had the office part of it on one side, you had the service bay on the other, you had the canopy where two vehicles could pull under at the same time—one for service and one for gas. To top it off, it was located on a national highway being Highway 41, which was the Dixie Highway.”

Dixie Highway had been paved in the 1920s, so this idea of a paved street was still somewhat of a novelty. People traveled Dixie Highway going north to south, and Perry, Georgia had developed into a lucrative place to stop to spend the night and buy gas. Sinclair became a very popular refueling point on Dixie Highway. Matthews’ business did so well that he ultimately built another station in another location.


"He ended up leasing the first station and it became a takeout restaurant in the 50s,” Loudermilk shared. "He sold it in 1968 and it sat vacant for a while after that because the restaurant closed at some point. Then in the 90s, it became a barbecue takeaway restaurant. It operated as Mrs. Peggy’s until 2013.”


That was the year that it almost got torn down. The city purchased it in 2013 for the purpose of demolition. The field area just up the street from it had been slated as a good spot to build a new city hall, and the city needed to be rid of the station and the house beside it because they wanted the entrance from the south to be an attractive one. There was going to be a park area there, and then the city hall would be the next visible building.

The citizens of Perry and the Perry Historical Society disagreed with the plans. Loudermilk said, "When the historical society found out that they intended to get rid of it, we felt like, since that was a national icon from the depression era and that not another business in Perry represents that era of time, we polled and surveyed the people and they decided that it was worth saving. They began to give us money to make sure that it was saved. So, we went to city council with that idea of saving and helping to pay for it, and they agreed with us. That was three years ago.

The restoration of the building did not happen overnight. It was a process and a true labor of love. Bricks had to be re-pointed. A new replicated canopy had to be built because the original one was too dilapidated to save. The city of Perry helped to finance the renovation of the outside of the structure, but it was on the historical society to handle 100% of what would be involved to restore the inside. The community came together to get it done, and the undertaking was finally complete in July of this year.

"Due to COVID, we had to postpone the grand opening,” Loudermilk shared, "but finally, we just decided to do it.”


The ribbon cutting for the historical structure took place on Tuesday, September 7 with multiple noted Perry city officials joining Loudermilk and her husband for celebration including Mayor Randall Walker, City Councilwoman Phyllis Bynum-Grace, Chamber Chairman Scott Cox and Downtown Manager Jazmin Thomas. A special treat was having the daughter of Henry Matthews, Shirley Matthews Smith, in attendance to witness her father’s dream turned into a historical treasure.


The reconstructed layout now consists of two rooms. The first is on the left side and is a petrol exhibit for that era and time—the 1930s. Most of the items found there are Sinclair items. Since it began as a Sinclair station, the society wanted it to be remembered as a Sinclair station. On the right side, because that is Legacy Park and because the group wanted to honor local veterans, a uniform for every branch of service can be see on display there. People from Houston County who served donated them all. Additionally, there are WWII memorabilia that can be seen as well. A standup of General Courtney Hodges—a local military hero—is in the museum, and the coat beside it is one he actually wore as a student at West Point.

The station is available for public viewing; however, Loudermilk explained that what was once a Sinclair station is now defined as a "static museum.” This means those interested in going inside must first make a reservation through the historical society so that one of its members can be onsite to oversee. Perry Area Historical Society is located at 901 Northside Drive. Visit online at perryhistoricalmuseum.org or call 478-224-4442 for more information.

-Houston Home Journal








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