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Hampton gas station may be historic

By Michael Davis

It may not look like much, but one of Hampton's oldest-looking buildings may be in line for listing as an historical landmark. And one woman has some big plans for it.

Sandy Donahue, a local resident with a little experience in the fixer-upper game, has the decaying and empty gas station on Hampton's Main Street in mind for the location of a new business with a young heart: a skateboard shop and later on, a skate park.

Donahue recently spent seven months restoring a residence next to Main Street's Hampton House. "To me, this place needs nothing compared to what the house needed," she said of the old gas station.

Donahue has been interested in the building as her base of operations since late last year but she said she needs a structural engineer to certify the building is safe for occupation.

"I applaud Sandy for even wanting to do anything with it," said Linda Hutchison, the manager of Hampton's Better Hometown program.

"I foresee this being a very lucrative business," she added.

William Hover, an architectural reviewer for the state Department of Natural Resources' Historic Preservation Division, recently visited Hampton and said that if the downtown area were to ever be listed as a historic district, the gas station building could possibly be a contributing structure.

He stressed that his evaluation was informal, but said, "Because so many of the buildings in that area had been covered up with what we call slip-cover facades, we don't know the historic integrity unless those slip covers are removed.

"If an actual evaluation could be done ? in all likelihood it's a potential historic district and the gas station would be what we call a contributing building."

A listing on the National Registry of Historic Places could put the owners of those buildings in line for state and federal tax breaks, he said.

As a member of the Better Hometown program, Hampton recently received $500,000 in grants from the state. Hutchison said those grants will go to rehabilitating the facades of many of the buildings in Hampton's downtown area.

"When a property owner or merchant applies for a facade grant from the Better Hometown Program, they must meet the Secretary of the Interior's standards for rehabilitation and guidelines for rehabilitating historic buildings. If these standards are met and they comply with the drawings that the University of Georgia's Designs services have recommended for their particular building, then we will give them a 50 percent matching grant up to $2,500 depending on the building layout," she said.