Lynnfield, Ma. 1-29-19. David Capachietti had the high bid at the auction for the Perley Burrill Gas station auction. (Owen O'Rourke)
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Lynnfield’s Perley Burrill gas station is sold at auction for $360,000

LYNNFIELD — Going, going, gone.

It took just nine minutes and $360,000 to seal the fate of the abandoned Perley Burrill gas station. The 2.6-acre site's next life will be as two single-family homes.

When the bidding started at Tuesday's auction, it didn't look like a promising day for the town of Lynnfield, which spent $200,000 to clean up the parcel just off Route 1.

"What's your pleasure on 914 Salem St.?" asked Paul Zekos, founder of Zekos Group Auctioneers in Shrewsbury. "Lynnfield is a dynamite place and this is a convenient location."

Zekos tried to get the bidding started at $300,000, then $250,000, and seconds later to $200,000, but there were no takers among the dozen registered buyers.

When he lowered the starting bid to $100,000 just after noon in Town Hall, hands went up.

"Doesn't matter where we start, it only matters where we finish," Zekos told the crowd. "I've got to meet someone for lunch."

As the auction continued, two bidders faced off against each other; an investor on a cellphone, and two local builders who partnered to do the deal.

In the end, David Capachietti, of Mass Pipeline Services Inc., and Marco Tammaro of MJR Custom Homes in Lynnfield, topped the bidding.

"We are excited to buy a historic piece of Lynnfield and bring it back to its pride and glory," Tammaro said following the sale. "Hopefully the neighbors are excited, too, and the ones we spoke to are."

Zekos said he felt good about the results. His firm will be paid a 3 percent commission of the sale price, or $10,800.

"I'm super pleased," he said. "It's always great when there's a capacity crowd and we can deliver for the town."

The auction for the storied gas station cured a headache for town officials, who spent the last five years fighting with the former owner, Joseph Pedoto, trustee of Little Joe Realty Trust.

Perley Burrill, who historians say emigrated from Nova Scotia with just pennies in his pocket, built the gas station in 1932, when gas was 15 cents a gallon. Residents said it was not unusual to see attendants fueling as many as eight cars while a line waited to get in or out of the place.

Legend has it that when the Northeast blackout occurred in 1965, the station was the only place in the region with electricity, thanks to its generator. That's when the tagline "Just off the Pike where the light shines bright" was born.

For years, the Burrill family boasted it was America's oldest filling station, according to Perhaps, the website says, the owners meant it was the oldest station still in operation.

The distinction of America's oldest gasoline station might go to Reighard's in Altoona, Pa., which says it has been in operation since 1909, according to the website.

Perley and Phillips Burrill sold the property in 2005 to Pedoto for $1 million, where he operated the gas station and Viking Oil Co.

That's when the troubles began, say residents.

One year later, state Attorney General Thomas Reilly sued Pedoto after the heating oil distributor abruptly stopped delivering oil to customers. Viking Oil ceased operations that year.

Later, town officials alleged Pedoto leased the property to landscapers and a used car dealer, all illegal uses.

In 2014, an Essex Superior Court judge ordered Pedoto to remove five underground tanks from the property or face jail time. All the while, the property, and the building on it, continued to deteriorate.

Two years later, Pedoto owed $232,073 in back taxes and property was seized for nonpayment, clearing the way for development.

Last year, the Planning Board approved a two-lot subdivision for the station that operated from 1932 before it closed in 2013.

Pedoto said he has moved on and declined to talk about it.

"I have nothing to do with that property anymore," he said. "That's long gone."

Robert Dolan, Lynnfield's town administrator who watched the auction unfold, said he's glad the property is back on the tax rolls.

"We're thrilled that the companies who made the investment in the site are committed to turning what had been a blight into a beautiful part of the neighborhood."

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