GALLIPOLIS — A new Speedway station is slated for construction at the intersections of Pine Street and Second Avenue in Gallipolis in mid-March and one woman is seeking to have what may be a historic home moved from the proposed construction site.
Meetings for the proposed construction of a new Speedway were conducted over the course of 2015. Lora Snow, executive director of the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre, upon hearing that properties surrounding the old station had been purchased to expand the existing Speedway property and build a larger facility, took interest in one older home that had been purchased next door to the current station.
Individuals living in the community felt it had ties with historic Gallipolis African American landowner and constructor John Gee.
Snow feels the home was a Gee property, considering Gee was known to have owned land surrounding the Second Avenue home, as well as being known for having been an integral part of the creation of Gallipolis’ first African Methodist Episcopal Church along Pine Street.
According to Gallia County Courthouse records, the property was, indeed, owned by Gee in the 1800s. Whether Gee actually built the home is in question. According to F. Carey Howlett, president and chief conservator of F. Carey Howlett and Associates, a firm focused in the conservation and historical analysis of architecture for museums, private collectors and homes, the physical features of the home and the fact that it was owned by Gee strongly support that he may have constructed the building.
Howlett believes the remaining features of the house indicate the home would have overlapped with Gee’s lifetime. Additions such as a 1920s front porch and to the back of the home have been made, but a brick section of the home is believed to be part of the original construction from the 1800s.
Gallia County Auditor’s records say the property had a structure built in 1814. Howlett contends the structure’ features pit it closer as being a mid-1800s home.
Iris Heissenbuttel, Howlett’s wife and colleague architectural historian, has family in the Gallia County area and has often visited the area with her husband. Heissenbuttel told the Tribune that she and her husband are familiar with historical housing designs around Gallipolis. The pair have a number of client organizations they serve, among them the Smithsonian Institution. Their organization is based in eastern Virginia.
Howlett said that block designs of John Gee structures exhibit a laying style called “American bond.” Constructors often utilized the same laying style in many of their structures. Such a laying style has been used among several buildings in Gallipolis, as well as in the John Gee Black Historical Center, formerly known as the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
With the closing of operations at Speedway station set for March 16 to make ready for construction shortly thereafter, Snow has been seeking ways to have the home moved and settled in a new location. Snow told the Tribune she does not want to hamper the construction of a new business and would like to save the home best as possible without incident.
According to the Gallia County Genealogical Society, Gee died in 1865. According to the society’s study of old census records, Gee was categorized as a “mulatto,” meaning that he had mixed African and European ancestry.
According to collected writings of Gallipolis reporter Pinckney T. Wall, his series of notes from 1889 to 1909 listed John Gee as being a son of ninth U.S. President William Henry Harrison. As commonly known among historians though, one never has all the pieces of the puzzle and historic mysteries are often only solved one document at a time.
Speedway representatives did not return phone calls for this story by press time.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.