The City of Fort Payne’s Public Works Department is preparing the lot at the corner of Gault Avenue and Fifth Street North for a multi-purpose project, according to Public Works Director Tim Williams.
The work aims to fulfill four objectives as directed by the Fort Payne City Council.
First, a portion of the property will go toward widening Fifth Street North so trucks heading north are no longer forced to make the sharp, 90-degree turn.
Secondly, the property will be paved so it can be used for public parking for adjoining businesses, as well as used for events at the Coal & Iron Building, the Boom Days Celebration, the Fort Payne Depot Museum, the Alabama Walking Park and the Rotary Pavilion.
Third, the city plans to add more street lamps in the style of the vintage cast-iron street lamps found in the downtown historic business district, extending the motif beyond Fifth Street for the first time.
Finally, the city plans to install a decorative streetlight pole, which could take up to six months depending on how quickly the utilities move on adjusting their lines, Williams said.
The lot holds a lot of historical significance to Fort Payne. According to the Landmarks of DeKalb, Inc. book, “Then and Now, 1889-1989,” an original two-story structure was built there in 1889 to house the Southern Banking Company and the Keely Institute, a medical rehabilitation organization. It was bought in 1929 by L.B. Rainey and was converted into a hotel, which was torn down in 1964. There was some discussion about possibly developing the lot with a replica of the Rainey Hotel, but for now, it will simply be paved.
In Sept. 2016, the city council voted to purchase the MapCo Station, formerly the Red Ace Service Station, for $175,000 and removed the underground fuel tanks, cleaning up residual pollutants. In May 2018, the city tore down the service station building, which Fort Payne Mayor Larry Chesser described as “an eyesore that we’re tickled to death to get rid of.”
The space serves as a visual link between two of the city’s oldest and most historic landmarks, the Fort Payne Opera House and the Depot Museum. Most recently, the Fort Payne Main Street organization has used it as the site for a farmer’s market.