The former capitol of the Frog Level crossroads.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Frog Level. It's a whimsical corner of southwest Virginia, with a name dating to the 1930s. Yet its most famous landmark – the tiny Frog Level Service Station – has since taken a leap down the road.
Frog Level hopped on the maps of Tazewell County when a schoolteacher, the late Jack Witten, went fishing on Plum Creek and jokingly declared the fog to be "at frog level." A cartographer friend, Bill McCorkle, created an official map of the Frog Level region, along the southwestern side of Tazewell.
The 1932 Frog Level Service Station, by default, became the capitol of this crossroads. Here, generations of Frog Level regulars gathered atop lime-green, lilypad-looking bar stools, croaking about politics as part of the all-joke Frog Level Yacht Club. Inside the tavern, you could buy not only beer and chips but also a famous Frog Level Yacht Club T-shirt, showing a beer-drinking bullfrog.
Frog Level – once known as the last combination beer bar/service station/convenience store in Virginia – lost its gas pumps in the 1990s, when its owner, the late T.E. "June" Bowling, Jr., decided he needed more parking spaces. A couple of years later, the store showed up in the scene of a 1997 CBS-TV movie, "Country Justice," starring Wise, Va., native George C. Scott.
Moved in 2009, following Bowling's death, the Frog Level Service Station now stands on the grounds of the Historic Crab Orchard Museum & Pioneer Park at Pisgah.
"There are some who think, 'Oh, youíre just saving a beer joint,'" says Charlotte Whitted, the museum's executive director. "But it's more than that. It's a cultural icon. The mystique is larger than the physical building."
The Tazewell Rotary Club adopted the square building with a plan to restore it. The Frog Level Service Station now lies about three miles from its former site: Frog Level's junction of U.S. 19/460-Business and Va. 91.
It's slated to open again in 2011, but it won't be a beer bar, Whitted says. "It will be an exhibit building. And it will also be for private function rentals."
Historic Crab Orchard Museum & Pioneer Park, Tazewell, Va. 276-988-6755.