Historic Landmark: Convenience store has withstood test of time
For The Daily Reflector
Sunday, May 26, 2019
This story is part of an occasional series of features provided by the Greenville Historic Preservation Commission that will focus on city’s history and historic structures.
Passerby’s on Fifth Street have long wanted to know the story of the little old looking convenience store known as ‘The Landmark” on the corner of Fifth and Ash Street. It has served the neighborhood and apartments behind it for scores of years, being the daily stop for enumerable students and city workers.
The story of “The Landmark” goes back to 1934, when Mrs. Ida Ruth Clark bought a lot at Fifth and Ash streets in the Wilson Acres subdivision. According to a small history of the Landmark, it seems a filling station building, built in 1932 on Evans Street, was bought by William C. Clark of the Clark Oil Company and physically moved in early 1938 to the lot on the corner of Fifth and Ash Streets.
You have to remember that Fifth Street then was known as the Washington-Greenville Highway. In 1937, the Greenville city limits went as far as a few lots past Eastern Street. It wasn’t until 1947 that the city extended its limits to Greenwood Cemetery.
The Clark Oil Company then went into business with John D. Rivers, who operated the station, which became known as the Rivers Service Station or Johnny Rivers Place. The building was enlarged, a bathroom was added and two 500 gallon fuel storage tanks were installed.
John David Clark (1903-1987), a native of Chesterfield County, S.C., operated the station until the early 1960s. Older folks recalled that they heard John Rivers say that he left the store many times at night in the early years with only $6 to $10 he had taken in that day.
After John Rivers retired, two other operators managed the store until 1967. On Nov. 1, 1967, Willie C. Clark and wife, Ida Ruth Clark, of the Clark Oil Company sold the building and lot to Bernice C. Branch. On April 30, 1968, Bernice C. Branch deeded the lot and building to his son, Bernice C. Branch and wife, Edna E. Branch. Bernice and Edna owned and operated the Branch Tile & Marble Company in Greenville. By 1968 the Landmark Apartments had been built next door.
The Branches leased the Landmark building to John M. Forbes, who ran it as the Forbes Sinclair Station and by 1970 as Forbes B.P. Station. The store was remodeled in 1971 and the Branches then hired Bob Hughes to run the business in the store.
They took up the original gas tanks and installed two 6,000 fuel tanks. They had $12,000 worth of stock on the shelves and put $8,000 worth of gas in the tanks underground. The place became known as “Landmark Pickup.’ On Sept. 19, 1977, Bernice C. Branch deeded the Landmark to Edna E. Branch, and she still owns it.
Roger Kammerer is an artist and historian who has documented Pitt County’s history. He works at Joyner Library at East Carolina University and is a member of the Greenville Historic Preservation Commission.