Pittsfield's new Center Street gas station, construction of which required demolition of 15 housing units, has been complete and ready for operation for more than two months.

The only trouble is that the Sun Oil Co. can't find a proprietor to rent it.

The situation led Mrs. Betty Messer of 79 John St., chairman of the Housing Action Group, to suggest that the city "tear down the gas station and put up houses."

"It's kind of a big joke," she said, "that people can be moved out of their houses and gas stations built up in their place.

"Somebody suggested naming Pittsfield 'Gasoline Alley.'"

Pittsfield has 61 gas stations, representing 14 different oil companies. Some, like the Center Street station, are vacant.

Housing proponents in Pittsfield struggled two years to prevent demolition of the 15 units to make way for the gas station.

In the summer of 1970, half-a-dozen families were living in the units and got an extension until the end of the year before being relocated. By that time, three of the houses had been condemned by the Fire Department inspectors.

The license for the station was granted by the City Council after Sun Oil had arranged to purchase seven buildings to make up the parcel.

Representatives for Sun Oil Co.'s Albany office have been unavailable for comment.

The station, directly across Center Street from the O'Connell Cadillac-Oldsmobile dealership, is adjacent to the Jubilee urban renewal district.

Mrs. Messer, whose action group represents members of antipoverty agencies and other interested Pittsfield groups, said, "Pittsfield people don't want projects in their backyards. So where do you place the families? You wouldn't believe the number of people who live in substandard houses."

She suggested, tongue in cheek, that perhaps the gas station could be made into a home. "We could make a playground around the gas pumps," she said.

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.