What is more important, preserving a historical landmark or paving a parking lot?
If you’ve ever heard the song “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot”, by the Counting Crows, then the irony of the punch-line of that song is clearly expressed through the frustration of many Waukesha residents over the idea of the YMCA demolishing Walley’s Service Station.
“Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone…”
Built in 1929, the Bartles-Maguire Gas Station located at 422 E. Broadway is a popular designed residential style gas station that was made to blend into the surrounding neighborhoods of that time. According to nomination papers for the National Register of Historic Places, there are three other “house style” gas stations like Walley’s listed to exist in Waukesha County. However, two of them have already been demolished, and the third has an inappropriate addition that was added to it, essentially eviscerating the natural look and any historical significance. As such, Walley’s is believed to be the last “intact” house style gas station in Waukesha County, and maybe even the entire state of Wisconsin? Perhaps this is why the Waukesha Landmark Commission designated this unique and final piece of Waukesha County history as a landmark in July of 2010. It’s ironic that this classification came shortly after Walley’s was purchased by the YMCA, essentially thwarting plans to demolish the building to put up a parking lot. Although the YMCA has petitioned the Waukesha Landmarks Commission to remove the “Landmark” status of the Bartles-Maguire/Wadhams gas station, that decision was deferred For another 30 days this past Wednesday. Nevertheless, the fate of Walley’s Service Station is unknown, and the building has been placed second on the “most endangered list of 2011” by The Society for Commercial Archeology.
Every day tiny pieces of Waukesha’s history are erased forever. Tearing down woodlands, hiking trails, buildings, only to build another subdivision, Wal-Mart or business equally as pathetic, the city almost seems to be slowly fading away as this flat, ecologically barren cancer scrapes away at what once was an historically enriched environment. How far is the city of Waukesha willing to go in erasing its history? Maybe they could just approve of tearing up any and all farm land, trees, and trails for kids to bike on and play. It’s a sad and absolutely pathetic situation when you drive down any of a number of roads only to see vacant strip malls and blank signs. It almost makes you feel as if you live in an overcrowded city when it’s not. Wouldn’t you rather see an unkempt field than an empty strip mall, storefront, or parking lot?
Do any of you recall the small farmhouse that once used to occupy the corner of Arcadian Avenue and Hwy164, just kitty-corner from the Aldi store is now? They tore down the farm and built a Jewel/Osco, which sold to Sentry, which went out of business in 2008 and there the empty parking lot sits. The list could go on and on…
Although the YMCA has brought up the prospect of relocating Walley’s, where would it be relocated to? How much nostalgia would remain? The proposal doesn‘t fly for many Waukesha residents who wish to protect what we have left of our historic community.
Waukesha Preservation Alliance representative Mary Emery stated, “This is an important part of automotive history.” What the alliance is hoping for is a business to move into the building so the history and memories of Walley’s “still stay in the city for everyone to enjoy.”