The iconic Airplane Filling Station on Clinton Highway got a historic marker today. The celebratory unveiling was attended by politicians and many of the folks who came together to save the old structure.
“I hope you never have to sell hams here again,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, alluding to early fundraisers to restore the old Texaco service station that’s built in the shape of an airplane.
Tim Ezzell said it’s structures like the filling station that make Powell (and other communities) unique. “Everybody’s got a Target and a Walmart,” he said, but only Powell has an airplane filling station. “That makes it special and gives (the community) character.”
Ezzell, an architectural historian and archivist who directs the University of Tennessee’s Community Partnership Center, joked that the restoration work, ongoing since 2003, was so great that the airplane is probably in better shape now than when it was built.
The structure currently houses John York’s barbershop. John never stopped cutting hair for the ceremony. Inside, York has antiques from Texaco, Coca Cola and vintage barber shops. It’s a mini-museum that offers a shave and a haircut.
Union County Mayor Mike Williams attended the ceremony, saying beforehand that he served in the state Senate when Burchett was trying to get funding for the guard rails and mitigation on the gasoline pumps. State Sen. Frank Nicely also attended. “Growing up in Knoxville, this (airplane) was always a cool landmark,” Burchett told the crowd.
Ezzell acknowledged volunteers who worked to restore the facility including Tom Milligan “who was crucial at the beginning,” and current officers Tom Bruno and Roch Bernard of the Airplane Filling Station Preservation Association. UT students Ben Whitelaw and Jennifer Lehto pitched in to help get the facility on the National Historic Register.
He also cited the role of the East Tennessee Development District and added, “This is just a small group of people doing something really good.”
Ray Smith of Oak Ridge is a member of the Tennessee Historic Commission. He has written about the Airplane Filling Station (here) and attended Thursday’s ceremony.