Renovated, but still on the rocks

LIHUE — The Shell Station in Lihue has a new hat and a new standing as one of the Society for Commercial Archeology’s 2016 Falling By The Wayside list of endangered roadside resources.

“Putting it on our list, what it does is raise awareness of that particular situation and of the endangered nature of roadside resources nationwide,” said Ralph Wilcox, SCA secretary.

Originally named the Lihue Motor Service Station, the shell gas station was built in 1930 to resemble a traditional Hawaiian structure with lava-rock columns and a concrete roof meant to emulate a thatched roof.

According to Ka’aina Hull, deputy planning director for Kauai County, the building was hailed as “the finest and most attractive service station in Hawaii” when it was constructed.

“Since that time, previous color alterations and signage to the structure have masked its architectural significance,” Hull said. “However, when originally constructed the service station utilized a native design with Koloa moss rock for pillars.”

“This design incorporated Hawaii’s own indigenous architectural lineage into Hawaii’s modern urban environment like no other design had done before, and arguably, like no other design has been able to do since that time.”

Currently, the gas station is lacking storage capacity, and has safety concerns. Aloha Petroleum, owner of the gas station, submitted a demolition permit request with the county planning department, but it has been withdrawn.

Caroline Witherspoon, spokeswoman for Aloha Petroleum, said the building has been repaired before, and the company is considering options for the site.

“Even though we attempted to repair the roof a few years ago, it began to leak badly again, causing serious safety concerns for our employees and our customers,” Witherspoon said on behalf of Aloha Petroleum. “We have treated the roof again to try to address the problem.”

Though the roof repair isn’t connected to the building’s distinction as an endangered roadside resource, the listing does get them another step closer to being on the list of National Historic Places.

“If the building were listed on the National Register of Historic Places, they could take advantage of the federal tax credit program to help with renovations,” Wilcox said.

Witherspoon said Aloha Petroleum is considering that option, but she said saving the building is a challenge.

Hull said the planning department thinks it’s worth it.

“The Department of Planning applauds any effort to restore the service station to its original color pattern and to restore its architectural prominence within Lihue’s town core,” Hull said.

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