Pure Oil Building Headed for National Register of Historic Places

Genevans, the Historic Preservation Commission applauded for saving the distinctive downtown landmark, once scheduled for demolition.

At first, it was curious that more people weren't attending Tuesday's Historic Preservation Commission meeting, considering the topic was the Pure Oil Building.

But it's also easy to see why the meeting wasn't a big deal. After all, HPC support for putting the Pure Oil building on the National Register is a no-brainer if ever there was one.

Historic Prevervation Commissioner Mike Bruno described the domestic cottage-style structure as "one of the most valuable and iconic buildings in (its) place and time."

"I don't think there's any question about our vote on this," Bruno said. "We've been neck deep or deeper in the preservation of this building."

Indeed, few topics in Geneva during that past year that have generated more conversation, controversy and public outcry. Once scheduled for demolition, the blue-roofed former gas station was saved after the HPC first voted against the bulldozer, the public came out against it in force and the City Council upheld the decision.

No one at Tuesday's meeting could say who nominated the building for the National Register, but ironically, the entity that's promoting it likely is the same that originally called for its demolition.

Mayor Kevin Burns, who was present in the audience Tuesday, confirmed that the new property owner is St. Charles Bank & Trust—which soon will be renamed "Geneva Bank & Trust," Burns said.

The city staff report does say that one reason it supports the nomination is that the owner of the Pure Oil Station property will be able to use the 20 percent investment tax credit that is "available to rehabilitation projects that are listed, or deemed eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places."

Geneva's new historic preservation planner, Michael Lambert—who recently replaced former planner Karla Kaulfuss—explained that the building was nominated under Criterion C as a representative property possessing “distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction.”

Geneva doesn't approve the nomination, but if the city objects, it could block the process.

The Pure Oil Building, formerly owned by Geneva developer Joe Stanton, was proposed for demolition initially because of strong arguments that it was economically unfeasable for adaptive reuse.

On Tuesday night, Geneva resident Colin Campbell credited the HPC with saving the building.

"I want to thank you and congratulate you," he said. "I know that what went on was very very difficult. But you stood your ground, the City Council stood its ground, and I think the process worked very well for the city. I think it’s a fantastic irony that the people who fought this a year ago are asking for its nomination."

Commissioner Nanette Andersson said it wasn't just the HPC that deserves credit.

"To tell the truth, it was the public, too—getting out there, getting their voices heard and supporting the decision of the commission," she said.

Campbell told the commission he has visited the Pure Oil construction site several times, and he's been very impressed with level of professionalism.

"I talked with the foreman and workmen, and they said this thing is solid as a rock," he said. "They seem to be doing a very careful, workmanlike job. From my limited experience, they’re doing a really good job."


Related Articles

  • Letter to the Editor: PURE Gardener Owners Say Please Don't Tear Down History
  • POLL: Should City Allow Teardown of Historic Kuchera Building?
  • QuickStory: HPC Votes 5-1 Against Demolishing Pure Oil Building
  • Pure Oil Building Status Still in Limbo
  • You Write the Story: What Happened at Tuesday's HPC Meeting on the Pure Oil Plans?
  • UPDATE: New Pure Oil Building Plan Approved by HPC
  • Hot Meeting on Pure Oil Building Tuesday at Geneva Fire Department
  • Pure Oil Plans OK'd by the Historic Preservation Commission; Plan Commission Next
  • Pure Oil Building Drive-Through Plan Goes to Plan Commission Thursday
  • Pure Oil Drive-Through Sails Through City Council
  • Pure Oil Building Development in Full Swing
  • Geneva Newsmakers Countdown 2012—No. 4: Joe Stanton


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Kyle January 17, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Absolutely agree! The building is being ruined if you ask me!
stix slavinski January 17, 2013 at 11:30 PM
what a joke on the residents of geneva, by our city council, the hpc, and (last, but not least...) joe stanton. congrats joey, on your new "investment tax credit".
Mike Bruno January 18, 2013 at 03:15 AM
@stix: did you mean "ON our city council" or did you actually mean "by our city council"?
stix slavinski January 19, 2013 at 04:02 AM
i think that either (and both...) words would work mike, due in part to the way that they sold out us residents, and seemed to cave in to the developer's wishes by claiming that it was a "win win situation", and all because only a shell of what was once a beautiful old historic building would be left standing. they should have put it to a vote by the residents instead of a handful of folks with their own agendas, because i am sure the outcome would have been much different, but i guess that's politics...
Mike Bruno January 19, 2013 at 03:37 PM
Well, I think putting a bank drive-through (and a bank) is a travesty in terms of municipal planning, but the building was preserved as well as it realistically could have. The street-side facades are being restored to their original condition. Some very nice landscape/hardscape is going in. The building (as a gas station) really is little more than a shell. There was an addition at the rear that was removed, but almost any adaptive re-use would need to expand out the back anyway (necessitating the removal of the addition). The back wall already had bricked-in drive bay doors, so those are simply re-opened to facilitate the drive-through. On the basis of building preservation, the city/HPC had a home run. On the basis of municipal planning, the city bunted foul. Ironically, I was very vocal in saying that a bank drive-through and bank are terrible for our retail district. Now the city is pursuing changing language to disallow first-floor, street-fronting banks in the business district. Too late.


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