NASCAR Hall-of-Famer’s Ashland auto museum

This is the second in an occasional series on Oddities & Wonders in the Ashland landscape.

If you have been walking or bicycling on the Bear Creek Greenway, at the turn by the wastewater treatment plant, where it crosses Ashland Creek, you may have seen the side and back of one of the most surprising sights in all of Ashland. An old-time gas station, complete with pumps listing gas at just 11 and 19 cents per gallon (unfortunately, there is none actually to be had here) sits proudly, looking much as it might have in the ’40s.

Next to it, on the drive leading to Oak Street, is a paddock with three grazing llamas. And close by is a museum and party space dedicated to automotive arts and other memorabilia. All this, plus a beautiful home and lush grounds with Bear Creek rushing through it, belongs to Harold Hardesty. His official address is 1291 Oak St., but it’s considerably in off the street. He’s happy to show visitors his remarkable collections, but interested folks should write to him first to arrange a convenient time.

Hardesty is a retired race car driver, an honored member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame who focused on this profession in the ’50s through ’70s. He also has had other successful careers, including excavation contractor. He has had 20 acres at this site, which he has been developing since 1960, but is currently selling half of them.

The gas station was built in the ’40s as a 76 station, moved to this site in 1990 from Ashland’s Main Street near Maple Street and completely restored by Hardesty to be a Gilmore station. It is stocked with an amazing array of vintage spark plugs and other period parts and tools.

Harold says he has the llamas because he lost a bet! But it is clear he admires these beautiful animals as he points out how friendly and tidy they are, always pooping in the same place to keep the rest of their field pristine and to make easy the gathering of their beneficial manure.

In the museum, Hardesty has six cars on display, ranging from a 1934 Ford pickup, lovingly restored by his son, to a 1990 Jaguar, plus a huge collection of trophies and photos of his racing history from the ’50s through the ’70s. In all, he has 13 cars. Twenty years ago, a devastating fire destroyed a large barn on the acreage, along with other prized vehicles and collectibles, including many of his trophies. Throughout the property, he has a remarkable array of fascinating stuff, including a jukebox from Omar’s and a super heavy chain from the Ashland Mill that once stood at the entrance to what is now Lithia Park.

In 1956, Hardesty drove in nine NASCAR Grand National races with six top-10 finishes — and in 22 Pacific Coast/Winston West races from 1966 to 1973 he had 16 top-10s, including seven top-five finishes.

Harold has held legendary parties on the property, primarily but not exclusively for car aficionados, and is still, at the age of 86, a gracious host

Ruth Sloan writes about the Ashland Garden Club’s Gardens of the Month from April through September. Send suggestions for great gardens or Oddities & Wonders to [email protected].

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