Harold's Auto Center photos/captions by Betty Kolar
A community fixture is one step closer to becoming a national landmark. And for the massive, highly animated fella known as "Dino," every step is a big one!
The building located at 5299 Commercial Way in Spring Hill takes the shape of a dinosaur character known as Dino, an "Apatosaurus" that stands 47 feet tall and is 110 feet long. And Dino is now on the fast track in its nomination for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; an official list of the Nation's historical sites deemed worthy of preservation.
"Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archaeological resources," reports the National Register of Historic Places website, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/faqs.htm.
The Hernando Board of County Commissioners was alerted to this proposal on April 13, via a letter received from Ruben Acosta, Survey & Registration Supervisor of the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Florida Department of State. The nomination proposal, the letter revealed, was set to be reviewed by the Florida National Register Review Board in a public meeting that took place on May 28, in Tallahassee. If the property met the criteria for listing in the national register, the letter continued, a formal nomination would be submitted to the Keeper of the National Register in Washington, D.C., who would make the final decision. In the meantime, comments and support for the nomination were solicited to facilitate the nomination.
Now the nomination has been formalized and is headed to the nation's capital, with the news listed on the agenda of this week's Hernando County Board of County Commissioners meeting.
According to the most recent correspondence from Ruben Acosta, "on May 28 the Florida National Register Review Board formally nominated the Sinclair Service Station located at 5299 Commercial Way in Spring Hill, Hernando County, for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. They are now in the process of preparing a formal nomination for submission to the Keeper of National Register in Washington, D.C. Once submitted, the National Register will have 45 days to approve or disapprove the nomination. If the nomination is approved, the property will be listed as of the date of approval."
Officially listed on the proposal as the Sinclair Service Station building, this structure finds its origins as a cement gas station opened in 1964 just south of Weeki Wachee, built by Sinclair Oil Co. dealer William Wilkis of New Port Richey. Dino's (pronounced Dye-No) unique shape can be owed to a design originated in 1930, when the Sinclair Oil Co. used a series of dinosaur logos to promote a line of lubricants refined from crude oil--an element formed when dinosaurs walked the earth. It was Dino, a smiling Apatosaurus, that proved the most popular with audiences; so much so that Sinclair registered him as a trademark in 1932 (https://www.sinclairoil.com/dino-history).
The Hurst family acquired the Spring Hill 'Dino' building April 6, 1977, by which point it had become a FINA Gas Station. The building retained its original shape and structure, with the Hursts integrating its unique design into the marketing copy for their automotive repair business, Harold's Auto Center. Harold Hurst made the dinosaur building the home of Harold's Auto Center, still open for business today (https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/47467).
Today it's business as usual at Harold's, where the staff has been notified of the formalization of Dino's nomination for the National Register of Historic Places.
"I understand that the nomination has been formalized, and sent from the state to the national level," said Dana Hurst, who now co-owns Harold's Auto Center with mom Irene.
Hurst said that his building, always a tourist attraction, has garnered a bit of additional attention in the wake of the nomination.
"People always have stopped to take pictures of the building," he said. "Now our regular customers mention the nomination when they come in."
Hurst looks forward to witnessing Dino's next big step on the road to national fame.
"Although we'll have to wait and see if the building is listed in the national registry, we're very excited to see this next step," he said. "Things have moved up to the national level."
Patricia Crowley, CEO of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, is also excited to see Dino's rise on the national scene.
"As a Roadside America Attraction it is exciting to hear our Spring Hill’s 56-year-old Sinclair Oil Dinosaur has moved forward in the process to be recognized in the National Historic Registry," she said. "The landscape of Florida is constantly changing; we need to protect our Historic American Attractions for our residents and visitors to remember and celebrate."