Back to The Automobile in Chicago
Chicago Examiner, Sunday, February 6, 1910
Through the demands and influence of the young automobile industry in Chicago real estate bordering on Michigan avenue for more than two miles has been increased in value 600 per cent in a single decade, according to statements of reliable real estate dealers. A review of the conditions leading up to the entire change of scope of the most important boulevard in the city should be of interest.
Ten years ago the Chicago automobile industry was in its very infancy, occupying a few stores along Wabash avenue, and none of the buildings was adapted to the requirements of the business, in fact, the dealers themselves did not understand their needs.
Soon new establishments were opened, but by this time the advantages of a boulevard location were discovered, and the nucleus of “Automobile Row” was started, with Fourteenth street as the center. A few buildings were erected especially for the automobile business, but they were crude in comparison with the splendid structures now- in process of construction in between Twentieth and Twenty-ninth streets.
Growth on Michigan Avenue.
Meanwhile, the older dealers on Wabash avenue found new locations on Michigan avenue, until five years ago there was an almost continuous line of motor establishments from Harrison street to the Sixteenth street viaduct. This viaduct was regarded as a sort of “dead line” beyond which it would not be wise to cross, from a business standpoint.
Eventually, however, the Packard concern dared fate, as did the Oldsmobile, Walden Shaw Company, National. Adams & Engs and Centaur concerns, and soon there was an annex to the row south of the viaduct.
Fortune continued to smile upon these concerns in spite of their hardihood in daring fate, with the result that dozens of other concerns visited real estate dealers and bargained for space still farther south. During the past year the amount of money expended for luxuriously appointed automobile buildings south of the Sixteenth street viaduct runs into millions, and a new epoch has been started in the local colony.
Locomobile Company of America’s New Branch Building
2000 Michigan Avenue
This beautiful structure emphasizes the great and growing popularity of the Locomobile and testifies to the successful growth of the Locomobile Organization in Chicago since its establishment ten years ago.
An Up-to-the-Minute Salesroom
One of the most artistic structures recently opened is the establishment of the Locomobile Company. Under the careful eye of Manager A. J. Bantu a building has been erected which rivals the leading bank buildings in lavish appointment, and which is equipped with every detail required in an up-to-the-minute automobile salesroom. This building is at the corner of Twentieth street, and lias attracted widespread comments from experts who have been shown\ through the establishment.
At Eighteenth street is the new Maxwell Building, commodious and artistic, and well adapted to the requirements of the immense line of Maxwell cars. Manager McNab may well be proud of his establishment. The Ajax-Grieb tire concern occupies a portion of the same building, a part especially arranged for the needs of the tire industry.
Three blocks south, at Twenty-first street, is the seven-story building of the Studebaker Company, not yet finished, but a structure which will be one of the largest and most perfectly appointed in America.
Next in the line is the new building of the Thomas Flyer at Twenly-third street—another enormous structure not yet completed, but which will be an important addition to the street. Every idea which will add to the convenience of Thomas customers is beitg introduced by Manager Paxson of the Chicago branch.
Decorations Are Pleasing
A few doors south, between Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth streets, is the new Premier Building, a marvel of artistic appointment. The interior and exterior alike are pleasingly decorated. In the same building is the headquarters of the Badger, handled by the same management as the Premier.
Across the street is the Brush runabout building, just opened, and a bee-hive of activity f»r the thousands of buyers of the low-priced business runabout. Manager Wanders has been untiringin planning this building for the requirements of his clientele. Next door is the new Mitchell building, opened a mouth or more ago. This structure is notable for its business-like appointment, but the artistic has not been sacrificed in the plans of Manager Hall.
On the corner of Twenty-fourth street, the splendid new Packard building is just being completed. The Packard concern plans to make this structure one of the most elaborate and artistic in America, and it seems that they have omitted no feature which would add to the comfort of their customers or to the development of their business.
Nyberg Pioneer in Movement
In the next block are several new establishments, including the Cadillac, Detroit Electric and Pierce Arrow, all on the west side of the boulevard, while on the east side may be found the Speedwell, Overland, Nyberg and Stearns buildings. Nyberg was the pioneer in the southerly exodus, having been in the same location for several years. He was followed by Stearns early last year, and the other buildings have been erected since. The Overland, Speedwell and Detroit Electric are just ready for occupancy, and the Cadillac people have occupied their new establishment only a few weeks.
Henry Paulman, head of the Pierce Arrow concern, opened his building several months ago. and is occupying one of the most pleasing of the new type of automobile salesrooms.
Still further south is the new Peerless Building, not yet ready. It will occupy the southwest corner of Twenty-fifth street, but even at that is not the southern limit of the new row, for at Twenty-eighth street is the new establishment of Walden W. Shaw, distributer of the Columbus Electric and the Berliet.
A few concerns are breaking away from the Michigan avenue idea. During the year the Babeock Electric Company has opened elaborate, salesrooms on Grand boulevard; the Buick concern is building on Calumet avenue, and the White Company has found a location on Wabash avenue.
New Buildings Planned.
Meanwhile there are several concerns which have leased snare along Michigan avenue, but the buildings have not yet been started. A number of signs placed on the leaseholds tell the name of the coming occupants.
As has been stated, the increase in the number of new buildings has had an effect in advancing the price of real estate, a condition which is augmented by the fact that as soon as an occupant moves out of an old establishment a new automobile concern is ready to take the store, and even now there are not sufficient stores to keep pace wtih the demand. Good locations are so scarce that two, three and even four agencies may be found at a single salesroom.
Quite frequently an accessories or sundries concern, follows an automobile agency when the move takes place, and wiil pass before the old colony north of Sixteenth street will have passed away in make room for some entirely different line of industry. All in all. Michigan avenue is the most comprehensive and highly capitalized automobile colony in America, even excelling the great colony of Broadway. New York.
Horseless Age, March 1901
The Locomobile Building on Wabash Avenue before it moved to Michigan Avenue in 1902
Architectural Record April, 1910
By Peter B. Wight
Probably never before has a popular mechanical invention had such a potent influence in diverting a prominent street from its original purpose and, incidentally, influencing the development of a pertinent style of architecture as has the automobile in transmuting Michigan Boulevard, in the city of Chicago, from a residence to a business street.
Ever since Chicago became a city of importance, and that was within the memory of men still living, Michigan Avenue has been a street to be proud of. In its earliest days, say, between 1850 and 1870, its northern extremity was noted as the favorite location for the residences of Chicago’s wealthiest citizens, and it was improved in this manner from South Water Street on the north to Sixteenth Street on the south. From Randolph Street to Park Row- its east side, bounded by a long and narrow park, afforded an unobstructed view of Lake Michigan from the opposite side, and this was an additional at traction which led to the erection of fine residences on its west side. After the Chicago fire in 1871 the avenue was set apart as a boulevard and turned over to the government and regulation of the South Park Commissioners. Then it was gradually rebuilt with business structures and hotels as far south as Congress Street, the part of it on which all the buildings had been destroyed by fire, and the erection of an even better class of residences was continued up to recent years as far south as Thirty-ninth Street. South of that point most of the buildings erected within the last ten years are apartment houses of the better class. The whole boulevard for a distance of six miles was in this condition until about five years ago, when few private residences have been erected.
Figure ① Automobile Row.
West Side, from 14th to 16th Streets, Michigan Boulevard.
Gradually within twenty years past the old dwellings and cheaper business buildings have been replaced as far south as Twelfth Street by still better commercial buildings and great hotels, which are famous, not only in Chicago, but throughout the world, and this has been the result of the gradual expansion of the business center of the city. But another change has come over this street within the last five and mostly within the last two years. This was to be expected, but not in the way in which it has occurred. It is a well established fact in connection with the expansion of all American cities that retail business always follows and absorbs property in the direction of the best residence streets. It had been anticipated that something of the kind would occur in Chicago. But Chicago is really three cities with physical lines of separation, surrounding a central congested business district common to all. Which way the “cat” would first jump no one knew.
Figure ② Continental Casualty Co., Nos. 1208-10-12.
Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, Architects
Figure ③ The Reo (on left) and Splerliug & Linden, Decorators (on right), 1218-20-22. Howard Shaw, Architect.
But the automobile has settled that question as it has not elsewhere. Michigan Boulevard, since the “auto” came into extensive use, with traffic teams forbidden and its splendid bitulithic pavement, has been the longest and best automobile course in any city of this country. At the present time this is so emphatically the c^se that a horse is seldom seen on it. Since the recent heavy snows, which have accumulated to a depth of at least eighteen inches before being packed, the whole roadway is a series of grooves and chain prints, with scarcely ever a hoof print; for even sleighs have disappeared. The dealers in machines have from their first appearance used the Boulevard for trying them out for customers. From this custom their attention has been attracted to its advantages as a location for their exhibition buildings and offices. It did not take long after one company erected a large building for the purpose, on the corner of 14th Street, before others sought locations. But the street was nearly all occupied by costly residences, and it was not easy at first to procure building sites. The property had been held at a high price always for residence purposes; but owners soon yielded to the demand at a higher price than formerly, and some tore down their houses and built stores, which were quickly rented. The “auto” people from all over the city then began to besiege the property owners for more sites and buildings, and the natural consequence was a “boom” in the prices of lots. Now nearly all the property for two miles is “for sale” at boom prices ; many of the old families are in a panic to get away from the street ; some because they want to sell at high prices, and others because they are sensitive to the association with trade. This state of affairs exists from Twelfth Street south to Twenty-sixth Street, and scattering properties have been sold along the Boulevard as far south as Thirty-ninth Street, four miles from the business centre of the city, where a large store and factory combined is to be erected.
Figure ④ Ford Motor Co.. 1444-46 Michigan, Christian Eckstorra, Architect
Figure ⑤ The Studebacker, Northwest Corner, 21st Street, W. E. Walker, Architect.
The building of residences on Michigan Boulevard is at an end, and it is not likely that any more buildings, except apartments, will be erected south of Thirty-ninth Street, which twenty years ago was the southern limit of the city. What with the use of the roadway by the thousands who now go up and down town between house and office or store, the shopping crowd that is too dainty to put its feet on the pavements and the “auto” dealers “showing off” their machines, the Boulevard is a lively street, with a continuous stream of machines going both ways at all hours; sometimes two abreast, and at all speeds. It is no easy matter to cross it safely at any time; but this all means “business” and, now especially, business for architects and builders. The Park Commissioners, where the Boulevard passes Grant Park, have widened the street thirty feet, and divided the driveway by long “isles of safety” and a row of lamps in the center. This is where the greatest rush occurs in front of the hotels and theatres.
The erection of “auto” buildings is now mostly seen between Twelfth Street and Twenty-sixth Street, a distance of about a mile and a half. Within this space have been erected within the last two years from thirty to forty new buildings nearly all for the auto business and all with from fifty to one-hundred feet of frontage. They are two stories, three stories and four stories high above the street grade. Most of them are three stories and some are seven and eight stories high. A very few other kinds of business are interspersed between them, but high class retail business has thus far taken up only the properties north of Twelfth Street fronting Grant Park near the new hotels. Here the high fireproof building is in evidence, and it will not be long before the whole lake frontage is built up with such structures where it is not now so occupied.
Figure ⑥ The Packard-Detroir
Northeast Corner 24th Street. Albert Kahn. Architect.
The development in architectural de sign as seen in these automobile buildings is the main occasion for this article. They have furnished the most recent problems for solutions by Chicago architects. The carriage business, heretofore so extensive, has not furnished any material precedents for them. For the display of the goods and the maintenance of any considerable stock, they require very large show windows, and large space on a level with the street. Fortunately the lots on Michigan Boulevard are very deep, about one hundred and eighty feet. This makes it possible, besides the showroom in front, and the office on the second floor, to have a large one-story extension running to the alleys and large enough, without obstructing columns, to demonstrate the operation of machines without going outside. The use of so much gasoline indoors necessitates that these buildings be fireproof and thoroughly ventilated. It is also necessary to have a place for washing the machines after trial on the road and a small machine shop for quick repairing.
Figure ⑦ The Pierce, Nos. 2420-22, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, Architects
Figure ⑧ Nyberg, Dealer in all Makes, Nos. 2435-7, Howard Shaw, Architect.
New problems in plan naturally suggest new problems in design; because of the difficulty of using the old conventional details. Freedom from the old precedents in design is the natural consequence. If it appeared that only a few architects had given their imagination more play than the dictates of discretion had suggested, there would be no occasion to consider the incident important. But it is facts that we are dealing with, and the fact that so many of them have, without concerted action, solved these problems in so nearly a similar manner only goes to show that if many minds work in concert, without premeditation it must be the best evidence that there is a good reason for it, and the question therefore arises: Do these buildings portray a natural evolution in design?
From the illustrations to be given it will be possible, perhaps, for the reader to realize whether or not the rational treatment of the designs for these buildings is the right one. It is not to be expected that many of them will betray beauty of form or color—they are mainly utilitarian. But on account of their location on a street notable for very good architectural improvements it is natural that designers should have sought to make them more attractive than purely utilitarian factories and warehouses. Therefore, it is here that we must look for the first development of a feeling to make them at least more than ordinary; to introduce decorative detail, not inconsistent with the service to be performed by the materials employed. If this is done consistently it is evident that here we must look for the crude beginnings of a new architecture. And if it can be so called it is not to be praised too highly, neither is it to be condemned rashly, because it is new. if the effort is honest.
Figure ⑨ The Mollne, 1508.
Figure ⑩ The Mitchell, Nos. 2234-0-8.
Jarvis Hunt, Architect.
These buildings, while built substantially, will not be required for the present usage many years. But they are well adapted to be given over to the uses of retail trade, which in due time will invade the same locality demanding generous show windows and large floor spaces. As land values mount upward they will be displaced by larger and higher buildings and will be regarded as merely stepping stones in the evolution of a better and, let us hope, more beautiful architecture than we have yet produced.
A few of these new automobile sales buildings have been selected for illustration. Figure ① is called “Automobile Row,” because from Fourteenth to Sixteenth Streets, a distance of two city blocks, all the residences on the west side of the street except three have been torn down and replaced by stores. All of these are either sales buildings for automobiles or for appliances connected with their manufacture and equipment. None of them has much architectural beau-prominence. The majority are only two stories high and their temporary nature is evident. Yet many of them have been carefully ‘designed. They are by various architects.
Figure ⑪ Locomobile, Southwest Corner 20th St.
Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, Architects.
The other illustrations following are of buildings of greater prominence and value, being interesting mainly as showing the evolution of design. They represent the medium class which we can now see in their completed or nearly completed state. While this is being written many more residences are being torn down to be replaced by business structures. The destruction has not spared one of the larger churches on the Boulevard, located at the corner of Twenty-third Street, while excavations are in progress at many points, and work has been commenced on other buildings which will excel those here illustrated in size and cost and possibly in design. One project contemplates a building the whole length of a block and twelve stories high. But that is a matter for the future.
The titles given to the illustrations, for the sake of brevity, do not mention Michigan Boulevard, but the buildings all front that street. The street numbers only are given, and they appear in due order from north to south, one hundred numbers being apportioned to each block. Only two of the illustrations show buildings not devoted to the automobile business. Figure ② which shows the new building for the Continental Casualty Company, of enameled terra cotta with a gray brick border, by Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, and Fig. ③ which shows besides the Reo Building the house of Spierling and Linden, decorators, both by Howard Shaw.
Figure ⑫ The Maxwell-Briscoe.
Northeast Corner 18th Street. W. E. Walker, Architect.
Nearly all of the automobile stores are of enameled terra cotta in tints either white or buff, and different kinds of pressed or paving brick. The Maxwell-Briscoe Building (Figure ⑫) by W. E. Walker, is faced with “wire cut” brick of a deep brown color, laid with scraped out joints. A very lively effect comes from the fact that these bricks are of uneven color. They are preferred for that reason. The enameled terra cotta is of a decitled buff color, and makes an excellent contrast, while the modeled ornament over some of the windows is very effective.
Figure ⑤, showing the Studebacker building, which is to be devoted entirely to the sale of automobiles, and also designed by Mr. Walker, is very different. It is introduced to show the concrete construction, which is faced on the outside with the same “wire-cut” bricks. This building is to be seven stories high.
Figure ⑬ shows two buildings faced entirely with enameled terra cotta. The Stearns Building (Figure ⑭) is faced with enameled bricks, the color effects being produced by inlays of stone. Figures ⑧ and ⑮ show effects produced mostly with paving bricks and cut stone. No. ⑧ is a combination repair shop and sales room and No. ⑮ is a taxi-cab garage. The material and design in these last two cases are appropriate to the purposes of the buildings, but not to the character of the street.
Figure ⑬ The Detroit Electric (on the left), Nos.. 2110-18, George Mason. Architect.
The Cadillac (on the right). Nos.. 2112-11.
Jenny, Mundle & Jensen. Architects.
The most original and attractive of all these buildings is Figure ⑯ by Holabird & Roche, for the McDuffee Automobile Company, which is not quite completed. It is of gray pressed brick and white enameled terra cotta. It should not be called Gothic, for it is not like any building ever erected in the Gothic period. The treatment of the corners and the cornice, which serves to unite all the angles of the building, is very effective. It may have been suggested by Italian models and yet it is not Italian. The cornice is more English than Italian. The brickwork it will be noticed is one unvaried surface, serving to make the window tracery all the more effective by contrast. And this tracery is not copied from any English model. The plainness of the window openings also serves by contrast to accentuate the tracery. It will be noticed also that all the windows run from floor to ceiling, leaving no room for transoms. This will, therefore, fittingly conclude the list of illustrations.
Figure ⑭The Stearns, Nos. 2431-33.
Figure ⑮ A Taxicab Garage, Nos. 2441-43.
Robert F. Smith, Architect.
Figure ⑯ McDufee Automobile Co., Northeast Corner 25th Street.
Holabird & Roche, Architects
The Automobile, April 20, 1911
CHICAGO, April 17—There are 112 different makes of pleasure automobiles sold on Chicago’s “Automobile Row.” A painstaking canvass of that splendid sales field undertaken by THE AUTOMOBILE showed that the total number of cars disposed of in Chicago reaches the astonishing number of 24,500 annually. Chicago does not take all of these cars for use of her citizens, as many of the selling concerns hold distributing rights over a wide territory and only a few are strictly limited to urban sales. For instance, the Locomobile Company of America, which has one of the finest selling establishments in the country located in Chicago, serves all the territory from Ohio to the crest of the Rockies from the middle western branch. This concern handles over one-quarter of the factory output and all of it is credited to the Chicago branch.
The city of Chicago alone buys 15,000 automobiles each year, the remainder of the total sales, 9,500 cars, going to outside territory. The average price realized from automobile sales in Chicago is considerably lower than it is in New York on account of the number of smart little runabouts and touring cars of moderate price that have proved so popular in the Windy City. It is estimated that the average cost of the cars sold in Chicago is $1,650, which is only a shade over the general average of all the cars sold in the United States and about $350 less per car than those sold in New York. This is accounted for in a measure by the fact that an immense number of low-priced cars are sold in outlying territory, the Ford branch, for example, having an allotment of 2,400 cars for 1911. Then, too, the Henry and Nyberg companies have their general distribution headquarters on Michigan avenue and as both expect to sell a large number of automobiles at moderate price, the volume represented by their factory outputs has a tendency to bring down the average figure.
Chicago’s bill for new automobiles totals $30,925,000 and the outside sales account for an item of $9,500,000. The receipts of automobile row for new automobiles amount to about $40,425,000.
Michigan avenue from north of Twelfth street to Thirty-third street used to be called “Gasoline Row,” but such an appellation cannot be justly applied to it in its present stage because there are a dozen concerns handling electrics here and there along its whole length and it has been estimated that there are at least 2,500 cars of that description in operation\ in the city. About one electric to seven gasoline cars is approximately the proportion to be seen on Michigan avenue all day long. Every store that handles a line of electrics reports a steady and increasing demand for that type of car.
The “Row” is about two and a half miles long, beginning with the White and Cartercar establishments and a clump of dealers bunched about Twelfth street and extending to the headquarters of the Ap person at Thirty-third street and Indiana avenue and the Moon still farther south.
The industry did much for Michigan avenue, which was formerly the residential district of the very élite, when that élite consisted of stock yard magnates, wheat emperors, real estate monarchs and railroad kings. The élite began to abandon Michigan avenue about twenty years ago and were succeeded by an elaborate system of boarding houses, which in turn became less and less elaborate as time went on.
Left—The Bird-Sykes Company, 2210-12 Michigan avenue, handle the Corbin and Matheson
Right—The stately Thomas is sold in Chicago by the local branch house at 2255 Michigan avenue
When the vogue of the motor began lordly Michigan avenue was somewhat frayed at the elbows as far as valuations were concerned and incomes from it were precarious and small. To-day, while the “Row” is not compact like that on Broad way, it has served to vitalize and regenerate values throughout its extent of more than two miles. Millions have been spent in raising majestic sales buildings that outshine those of New York in the general average and in particular in stances compare favorably with the homes of any industry anywhere. Nothing finer in the way of automobile sales establishments have been erected than those which house the Locomobile, Peerless, Packard and several others in Chicago. The Columbia and Maxwell, Detroit Electric, Chalmers, Velie, Thomas and Stoddard Dayton all have magnificent homes and there are a dozen more that are distinctly creditable.
Several of the sales establishments have been doing business for over ten years. The Ralph Temple Automobile Company, which now handles the Jackson and Baker Electrics, claims to be the pioneer, going back so far into ancient history that dates are somewhat shadowy. It is said that this company sold the first Oldsmobile that was made, a single-cylinder curved-dash runabout, and that the date was 1898. As nobody would undertake to deny such archaeological figures, the statement stands.
If one will imagine a street almost twice as wide as Fifth avenue, smoothly paved and maintained to the minute, flat as a billiard table in its longitudinal lines, symmetrically curved to the gutters in its cross section, as straight as an arrow from end to end, he will have an idea of the geographical setting of Chicago’s automobile sales district.
There is only a trace of congestion, except in that mysterious section referred to by Chicagoans as “Within the Loop.” It does not rack the life out of a car to drive it the full length of Michigan avenue every day, because the street is so wide that the tremendous current of automobiles flows smoothly, and transmissions and motors, to say nothing of tires, last longer in operation on Michigan avenue than they do on Fifth avenue.
Chicago has a system of connected parks that is unique in Christendom. One may drive all day without getting away from the smooth boulevards and parkways that comprise this magnificent institution. Starting at the head of Drexel boulevard the motorist can drive south to the beginning of the lower series of big parks and by following the macadam pavement can continue for hours, circling about the big flat town under conditions that approach the automobiling ideal. He may bring up at Lincoln Park on the Northside, from which trend the Lake Shore and Sheridan Drives, leading toward the Wisconsin line.
Left—Stearns and Broc electric lines are handled at 2431 Michigan avenue
Right—McFarlan Six as shown in the rooms of C. A. Coey, 1424-26 Michigan avenue
All told there is nothing in the United States that will compare with Chicago parks and parkways as an attraction for automobile operation, and consequently everybody in the Windy City owns an automobile if he can afford it. This fact makes the selling of cars somewhat simpler in Chicago than it is elsewhere. It looks so easy and delightful to trundle along the fine broad streets and the advantages of motor travel are so apparent that the Chicago salesmen do not have to convince prospective customers of the beauties afforded by the possession of a car. In fact, the Chicago salesmen have the single, simple theorem to demonstrate, namely, that his car affords value for the money it costs.
Like New York, Chicago is an important “big car” center. The wealthy men of the city own powerful cars in large proportion. Automobiles with engines capable of developing 90 horsepower and more than a-mile-a-minute speed are common and there is scarcely a prominent family that does not possess at least one car of from 40 to 60 horsepower. But this section of the automobile public must of necessity be small as compared with the great bulk of users of the motor car. In Chicago the car of moderate price is the favorite. There are more Maxwells, Mitchells, Overlands and cars ranging from $900 to $2,000 in use, compared with the total number in operation, than anywhere else in the country. The automobiles of even lower cost are also intensely popular. The foreigners are of secondary importance in considering the Chicago sales field.
The whole situation means that Windy City motordom is different in many ways from that of New York. It contains thousands of owners who would not be ranked among the motorists of the metropolis. These are mostly salaried men whose earnings would not be considered sufficiently high to warrant owning a car in New York, but which have proved to be enough to maintain one easily in Chicago. The same condition applies to business men whose income would not stand the New York drain for tire bills and satisfy the monthly bill collections.
Chicago has sixty-five automobile salesrooms, of which fifty-five transact an annual business averaging nearly 450 cars per store. The remainder, in which are included some of the biggest and most costly cars, handle an average of IOO cars. It has been estimated that something like 600 electrics will be put out during 1911.
1737 South Michigan Avenue
From The Brickbuilder, November, 1910
Cream enameled terra cotta trimmings
Architect: Ernest Walker
Business so far this year has been rather quiet all along the “Row,” on account of a hard Winter and a backward March. But with the advent of April the stormy season began to give way and during the visit of the representative of THE AUTOMOBILE selling industry fairly seethed. Out in the bright Spring sun shine the salesmen were working overtime with demonstrations and stocks rapidly. While there is no exuberance apparent anywhere in the district, there is a feeling of confidence and a quiet optimism that invariably precedes a season of active business in any line.
Despite curtailment of manufacture in certain factories and a general trimming of financial sails, only one or two dealers would admit smaller allotments of cars for 1911 than they had in 1910. This is partially accounted for in the aggregate by the vast volume of hitherto unknown cars that has been added to the lines handled in several of the old selling companies. But the fact remains that only a few standard companies have cut down the number of cars assigned to the Chicago distributors.
All of which means that motordom looks for the best season by far in the history of the industry and is prepared for one that may not prove to set the record mark of sales much higher.
The improved elasticity in manufacture is in a measure the reason for the conviction in Chicago that there is going to be neither a glutted market nor a famine of cars. Assurances have been received that if the demand requires it may be possible to get more cars than the allotments called for, but that until such a demand develops, it would be better to keep slightly over on the conservative side.
As it is, even thus early in the season, some inquiries are being received for good second-hand cars, and while the day of the brass band in the automobile business has passed along, there is a measurable feeling up and down the line that the season’s allotments of new cars and the used machines taken in trade will be moved before Fall.
It costs far less to operate and maintain an automobile in Chicago than it does in many other sections of the country, particularly New York City. As all automobilists know, the chief items of expense in running a car are the tire bills, gasoline and oil, maintenance and chauffeur’s wages. Taking these items in order, the facts as they obtain in Chicago are as follows:
The topography of the city is peculiarly flat and rather monotonously level. Chicago was built on a swamp, where it was not located on sand dunes. Its giant skyscrapers are founded on piles driven into a heavy bed of clay. Extending from a point eight miles down on the Indiana State line, it stretches along the shores of Lake Michigan nearly to the north line of Cook County, a matter of over fory miles. The city is densely populated for more than eight miles west of the lake shore and in the whole length and breadth of the town there is not a hill that is worthy of mention. Properly, Chicago has been termed the “Garden City,” for in the course of its growth its builders provided for the most wonderful series of public parks that can be boasted by any community in the United States. Long be fore the advent of the automobile Chicago had a system of boulevards that formed the subject matter of that magnificent optimism that has always been so notice able about the native of the big town.
There was never any necessity for the gathering of two or three Chicagoans together to give the opportunity for a little conversation in which nothing but superlative adjectives were ever used in describing the charms of Chicago. A single Chicagoan was always sufficient to get the facts before the public. Thus, little by little the fame of Chicago was spread all over the world and the carping critics surnamed the place the “Windy City.” Of course, the wind does blow in Chicago just as it does elsewhere, but Rude Boreas never had a chance in competition with the Native Son when discussing his home town.
Left—Where the Premier and Moline are sold, The Quality Car Company, 2329-31 Michigan avenue
Right—Chicago home of the Stoddard-Dayton and Rauch and Lang electric, 2457 Michigan avenue
From the viewpoint of motordom, the flatness of Chicago means that the automobile does not have to climb any hills. Thus the strain on the mechanical parts of the car caused by pulling up heavy grades is one of the things that does not have to be considered. Secondly, the boulevards are all that the most ardent Chicagoans claim for them. They are well paved and well kept and furnish as fine a groundwork for the automobile as exists anywhere. Then, too, the streets, entirely aside from the park system, are well maintained. As a general thing, the side street in Chicago is about as wide as Broadway. Things are not crowded and congested as they are in New York and some other places. Of course there are not nearly so many people in Chicago as in the metropolis and the pressure of traffic is nothing to compare with that of New York, but the fact should not be lost sight of that the Chicago streets are vastly better calculated to bear the traffic of a city of the size of New York than those of New York itself.
Grand Boulevard, Midway Plaisance, Michigan avenue, Garfield Boulevard, Lake Shore Drive and a dozen other great highways have no counterpart in the metropolis and consequently there is a delightful absence of such conditions as obtain daily on Fifth avenue. Twenty miles an hour is a rate of speed manifestly unsafe if it is not absolutely impossible on lower Broadway, but such a speed is just a nice comfortable rate in Chicago, even in the district comprised by Automobile Row.
The Quality Car Company (Makers of Premier Cars)
2329-31 Michigan avenue
From The Brickbuilder, August, 1910
Curtain walls and mullions in dark green terra cotta, balance of building of light cream terra cotta.
Northwestern Terra Cotta Company, Makers.
Holabird & Roche, Architects.
Big cars, such as those that use up four or five sets of shoes in 8,000 miles of travel in New York, will get the same mileage or more on two sets of tires. The average tire consumption of the car in New York is two sets of shoes and twenty tubes in 8,000 miles. In Chicago that is the maximum figure for the heavy cars, while the figures for the small automobiles run down to one set and eight tubes, while the average is between five and six tires with a dozen inner tubes.
It has been estimated that there are about 30,000 cars in operation in Chicago. Thus the annual tire bill would amount to $13,500,000 or $450 per car, about one third less than New Yorkers pay, according to the latest estimate.
This saving is solely due to the condition of the streets in Chicago and is not in anyway dependent upon the cost of the tires per piece.
Above is the display window of the Aurora Automobile Machinery Co., 1307 Michigan Ave., Chicago. Mr. F.D. Freeman, Cook County Sales Manager, appears in the picture, arranged same, and is very busy explaining the many grand and new features on the new white 5 and 7 THORS. He sells them for cash or on easy payments.
In the matter of fuel and oil there is a distinct advantage to the operator of a car in Chicago as compared with his brother in New York. On a mileage of 8,000, if the rate of consumption is eight miles to the gallon of gasoline, it would require 1,000 gallons to give the required power. At the prevailing rate of 20 cents per gallon in New York, the fuel bill for the New Yorker would amount to $200 at a moderate figure, while his oil bill takes care of another $20. In Chicago the price of gasoline is 15 cents a gallon; thus $50 is saved in the matter of gasoline alone in the operation of the average car for a year.
While the service, maintenance and repair ideas in Chicago have not reached the level of excellence attained in a few instances in New York the repair situation is very well in hand in the Windy City. Every one of the sixty-five selling establishments has its maintenance department. Several of them are elaborate in the extreme and contain provisions for the swift, economical handling of any job, no matter how complicated. The service department of the Locomobile is a particularly notable instance of the provision that has been made to care for Chicago-owned automobiles. This concern has a big building 171 by 75 feet at the southwest corner of Michigan avenue and Twentieth street. Back of the salesroom there is a stock room where parts are stored for all the models turned out by that company for many years. Complete cars could be assembled out of the parts held in stock and the management asserts quite positively that it carries the fullest line in the Middle West if not in the whole country.
The second floor is occupied by a storeroom and second-hand car department and the third floor is given over to a machine shop that would compare favorably with many automobile factories. It is equipped with everything that lends itself to speed, thoroughness and efficiency of repairs.
There are a number of other service departments that are notably large and complete, particularly those of the Chicago, Coach & Carriage Company, Velie, Jackson, Chalmers, Studebaker, Ford and Premier. In a few of these all kinds of cars are handled, but in the main the service departments of Chicago handle only the cars that are sold in the establishments with which they are connected.
Stoddard Dayton Building
2453 Michigan avenue
From The Brickbuilder, December, 1910
Holabird & Roche, Architects.
As has been said, each dealer has some sort of a repair department and where grave or basic repairs are necessary most of them have the heavy work done in independent machine shops. There are many of these along Automobile Row.
It may be the state of the labor market and it may be that the Chicagoans demand stronger guarantees from dealers than buyers do in some other sections, but the fact remains that it is only in a few of the exclusive service departments where the New York rate of 75 cents an hour is charged to customers for repair work. At most of the high-class places 60 cents an hour is about the rate charged and in some it runs as low as absolute cost. This makes a distinct difference in the amount of money needed to keep the automobile running in Chicago as against the New York item.
On an equal basis of hours, the Windy City owner gets the best of the situation by about 15 cents an hour. Take the big car average for example: In New York it is about 270 hours labor per year. That amounts to about $200. If the same number of hours were necessary in Chicago the cost would be $162. But the good pavements and easy motoring conditions in Chicago reduce in material degree the amount of repair work needed and the general average of repairs is probably not far from 200 hours each year for the high-powered cars and little or nothing for parts. In money terms this would be in the neighborhood of $125 a year. The Chicago service departments do a large amount of business and the replacements made under the manufacturers’ guarantee is an appreciable item.
The last of the four factors in the cost of operation is the matter of the chauffeur’s wages. The demand for chauffeurs is not so heavy in the West, as many more car owners do the driving than they do in New York. Wages on the average amount to about $1,200 a year, or less by $100 than they are in the metropolis.
Thus in the operation of a big car the Chicago owner saves the following amounts in comparison with the owner of a corresponding car in New York: On tires and tubes, $230; on gasoline and oil, $50; on repairs, $75; on chauffeur, $100; the total is $455. With the small cars as subject matter, the saving would be about $250 a year, disregarding the item of chauffeur’s wages. The average saving in Chicago figures close to $300 per car per year.
If that amount was cut from the bills of New York motordom the saving in the metropolis would total $12,000,000 in one lump, all but a small portion of which may be laid at the door of the difference between New York and Chicago streets. Naturally enough the city traffic in Chicago is more trying upon tires and mechanisms than well-kept country roads would be, but the difference is sufficiently notable for practical purposes.
The saving represents from 15 to 25 per cent. of the cost of operation of small cars and alone stands for the real reason for the wider sales field in Chicago. Many a man in New York whose income is greater than that of the majority of Chicago automobile owners hesitates to buy and operate a car because of the excessive cost of the items enumerated. Thus he is deprived of the pleasure and benefits to health and the convenience of an automobile while his counterpart in Chicago enjoys all of them without stint.
Left—Part of the salesroom of C. Friedberg, 1233 Michigan avenue, where Schacht and Van are sold.
Right—Showing the Chicago home of the Ford, 1448 Michigan avenue, headquarters for a wide territory
The second-hand situation in Chicago is acute. Fully one-half of all the sales made in which new cars are the subject matter, old cars are taken in trade. In past years anything with four wheels and a motor was regarded as the basis of a trade for a new car and in several of the storerooms along the row there is a collection of old junk that would be deserving of honorable mention in any exhibition of antiques. Ranged in line in one of these places last week there was a Premier of the first lot turned out by the Indianapolis factory, two ancient White steamers, two equally venerable Stanley steamers, a Darracq ten years old and two decrepit Oldsmobiles of the vintage of 1900. They could have been purchased in bulk at an average price of $60, but they stood the company some $12,000 in trades. Such ruinous practices happily have been abandoned and the basis upon which second-hand cars are taken in trade in Chicago now is much more equitable.
Still there are some amusing cases reported every now and then. During the rounds of the representative of THE AUTOMOBILE a six-cylinder car of 1910 model and medium-priced stopped in front of the door of an establishment where a line that sells for $2,000 is handled. The owner was driving and when he had introduced himself to the sales manager and inspected his wares he declared that he wished to buy a car. He wanted to trade in his “six” and pay the difference in cash. The sale, however, was not made because the owner of the “six” wanted $1,800 allowance for his car.
Most of the agencies decline to handle the second-hand cars of other makes, preferring to specialize in their own wares. These concerns make it a point to carry full lines of parts for their own cars and this fact has a tendency to restrict the field for second-hand cars to the selling concerns from which they came in the first place. Of course some companies take anything that will run and make some sort of an allowance for it and in most of the agencies for large cars small cars of other makes find a warm welcome, but there is very small volume to the trade that depends upon turning in used cars of expensive manufacture for cars that list in the medium-priced class, unless there is a margin of cash as well.
It is simple enough to get a comfortable allowance in trade for some of the larger makes where the second-hand car is in good condition and its original list price was, say, one-third of the list price of the big car. Particularly in Chicago is there a constant market for good second-hand cars of moderate original price. The actual cash returns from such cars is better than it is in New York. Cars of the class of the Cadillac, Chalmers and Haynes are readily absorbed in the second-hand cash or trade exchange.
Automobile Row in Chicago is limited strictly to frontage on Michigan avenue, with the exception of the Apperson agency, which is on Indiana avenue and Thirty-third street, just to prove the rule. Taking the north line as Twelfth street and the south line Twenty-sixth street, Michigan avenue accommodates almost all of the leading automobile factories of the United States with local sales agencies.
North of Twelfth street there are a few dealers, notably the Chicago home of the White and Cartercar, while south of Twenty-sixth street are the Pope-Hartford, Moon and one or two more.
B. C. Hamilton & Co., 1218 Michigan avenue, where Fal, Reo, Chadwick, Nance and Pullman are sold
The following list does not contain quite all the agencies between the lines indicated, but it does cover practically all the more important establishments. Adjacent to the commodious quarters of Motor Age, which are located at the corner of Twelfth street and Michigan avenue, is the store of B. C. Hamilton & Co. at No. 1218 Michigan avenue. This company has been in existence for three years and does a diversified business, handling three lines, the Chadwick, Pullman and Nance. The total allotment of these three varieties of automobiles foots up about 100 cars, of which the Pullman stock is sixty. In the same building, salesroom and garage is the Reo Automobile Co., handling the Reo, and the Fal Motor Car Co., distributing the Falcar.
Across the avenue at No. 1221 is the Ralph Temple Automobile Co., the pioneer of the “Row.” It is stated that the history of this concern extends back thirteen years, when it undertook to sell the first Oldsmobile and the National Electric. Later this company handled the Pan hard, De Dietrich, Darracq, De Dion, Premier, Reo and National cars; this year it has the Jackson and Baker Electric.
Last year the Temple company handled 600 Jacksons and this year the allotment is placed by the company at 750. The Bakers to be sold in 1911 total Ioo cars. A fully equipped machine shop and repair department is maintained for both lines and a complete line of parts is carried in stock.
South from the Jackson headquarters is the Chicago Coach & Carriage Co., in whose establishment the Badger and Cutting cars are displayed. The chassis department is probably the largest in the Windy City and a feature is made of the manufacture of all kinds of motors. Max Sulecky, a progressive practical engineer, is in charge of this department as well as the service section of the company.
A few doors further south is the establishment of C. Friedberg, who sells the Schacht line and the Van runabout. Mr. Friedberg said he expected to sell 100 Schachts and half as many Vans during the 1911 selling season.
The Chicago branch of the Winton Motor Co. is the next big store on the row.
At the northwest corner of Fourteenth street is the commodious showroom and fine garage of the National Automobile Company and the Inter-State Motor Car Co., where both of those well-known makes of automobiles are handled. C. W. Caldwell, president of the concern, is one of the most successful members of the Chicago selling fraternity and under his handling the sale of Nationals has been lively. In 1910 fifty cars were distributed of that make and the allotment for this year includes 125 Nationals and 100 Inter-States. J. Harry Seek is the Inter-State representative.
The next block south contains a number of dealers’ stores, chief among which are the following:
At 1420 is the Adams Automobile Co., which handles the complete Paterson line and the Whiting runabout. The company has an allotment of 100 of each make and reports a good business.
At 1424-26 is the Charles A. Coey Automobile Service Co., which distributes the McFarlan Six. In the season of 1910 about 50 cars were handled and this year the allotment is three times as large. The Coey company makes a specialty of repair work and overhauling jobs.
The Ford Motor Co., 1444 Michigan avenue, has one of the largest wholesale and retail establishments in Chicago. The territory over which this branch house holds jurisdiction is extensive and Thos. J. Hay, manager, is authority for the statement that in 191o something over 1,800 Fords were sold through this branch. This season the contract reads for 2,400 cars and the manager says that the only possible reason for not selling them will be the fact that the factory cannot furnish the cars.
Across the broad avenue at 1421 is the salesroom of the Halladay Motor Co., Chicago distributors of the product of the Streator Motor Car Co. This concern is making an active selling campaign and is rapidly outgrowing its present quarters. It is announced that the company is contemplating a move into larger rooms where more stock can be carried and where there will be ample facilities for a service department.
Crossing again to the west side of the avenue the Franklin Automobile Co.’s place at No. 1450 is the next large establishment. The Franklin has been handled in Chicago for five years and F. L. Thomas is at the head of the local company. About 100 cars were disposed of last year and the current allotment is estimated at 150.
The Chalmers Motor Company of Illinois, No. 1467-69, is the last important store in the east side of this block. This company has a whole building, the first floor of which is devoted to salesrooms, the second to storage and the third to machine shops. The company has been in existence for two years and besides the Chicago territory serves North Illinois and part of Iowa. In 191o 450 Chalmers cars were sold and this year the allotment is said to be 600, IOO of which are 40-horsepower machines.
Back a little way on the other side of the avenue is the Chicago salesroom of, the Knox Automobile Co. This company announced that the Chicago allotment of Ioo cars had been practically sold.
Cole Motor Company, at 1470 Michigan avenue sells the Cole and Westcott
A few doors south from the Knox establishment is the store in which the Cole and Westcott cars are displayed. The concern is known as the Cole Motor Co. and the location is No. 1470.
The next block south from Fifteenth to Sixteenth street has only a few important stores. G. E. Holmes, who handles the Regal at 1502, has been in business for three years and his total volume of business has now reached large figures. Mr. Holmes has all of Illinois for his territory and his allotment for the whole State is 525 cars, of which Ioo have been set off for his Chicago trade.
Across the avenue at No. 1505 is the Chicago store of the Lozier, the company handling it being the Lozier Sales Co. In 1910 about 35 Loziers were sold in the city and the big cars proved so successful that the allotment for 1911 has been raised to 50 cars, almost all of which have been bespoken thus early in the season. This allotment is limited in
distribution to the city of Chicago.
Next door to the Lozier store is the Henry Motor Car Sales Co., at No. 1507, general distributors of the factory product of the Henry plant. This concern is directed by P. H. Demange and is unlimited in its selling field. The Henry company intends to market 1,000 cars during the current selling season and has made a hopeful start locally. Last year the factory turned out 300 cars, all of which were sold through the Chicago concern.
From Sixteenth street to Seventeenth there are still fewer active selling concerns. The Haynes and Royal Tourist stores are further north and the feature establishment of the block is that of the Velie Motor Car Company, at No. 1615, which is man aged by H. G. Moore. This company has an artistic and roomy sales department, an adequate storage section and a small but complete machine shop. The selling territory includes practically all of Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and part of Wisconsin. The company intends to dispose of 400 cars during the 1911 selling season.
Just before reaching Sixteenth street lies the magnificent armory of the First Infantry, Illinois National Guard, where an important part of the annual automobile show held in Chicago under the auspices of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers is given. The arched entrance to the armory is one of the architectural sights of the city.
Morrison Motor Car Company, 1716 Michigan avenue-Garford and Case cars
Above Seventeenth street there are several lively representatives of the automobile industry. Chief among these are the establishments of the United Motor Chicago Co., 1735-37 Michigan avenue; the Centaur Motor Co., 1725 Michigan avenue, and the Morrison Motor Car Co., 1716 Michigan avenue.
The Morrison company sells the Garford and Case pleasure automobiles and Garford trucks. This year the allotment of Garford pleasure automobiles is 50 and the company will take IOO Case cars. The number of trucks has not been definitely established.
The Centaur Motor Co. has a large line of cars, including the Abbott-Detroit and Krit gasoline automobiles and the Dayton Electric.
A. M. Robbins, manager of the company, stated that he had prospects of selling 400 Abbott-Detroits, 200 Krits and as many Dayton Electrics as he is able to get. This number, however, will not be large.
The store of the United Motor Chicago Co. is one of the most complete in the Windy City. It is situated at the corner of Eighteenth street and occupies the whole of a large building. It is one of the largest distributors of automobiles in Chicago, the sales of Maxwells alone since last September totaling 1,500 cars, while 35 Columbias have been sold since November. The store is presided over by Dr. M. D. MacNab and its territory includes parts of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin; in fact a large part of Illinois is within its jurisdiction. For the 1911 selling season preparations are being made to exceed the total volume of business of last year by a comfortable margin, and the addi tion of the Sampson 35 to the line is proving specially interesting to competitors.
Left—The Halladay Motor Car Company, 1421 Michigan avenue, handles the Halladay
Right—Kissel Kar line, 2515. Michigan avenue (the photograph was destroyed by reflection from the plate glass)
Between Eighteenth street and the second cross street there is a barren waste as far as automobile selling companies are concerned, but commencing with Twentieth street, Michigan avenue in the next block includes a host of active concerns.
First is the Middle Western branch of the Locomobile Company of America, the most imposing and beautiful of all the Chicago branch houses. It is located at the southwest corner, No. 2000 Michigan avenue. With a frontage of 75 feet on the boulevard and 171 feet on Nineteenth street the three-story building gives the company a fine showroom and other departments. There is nothing in the line of automobile salesrooms in New York that will compare with this one. The showroom is exceedingly high and is floored in mosaics of hard wood highly polished and giving such a reflection of light as to make photography difficult indoors. Giant fluted pillars support the ceiling and lend an air of massive impressiveness to the big room that gives the cars a perfect setting. The company disposes of one-fourth of the output of the factory at Bridgeport, Conn., and its selling territory includes all the States between Ohio and the crest of the Rocky Mountains as far south as Arkansas and Kentucky boundaries.
A. J. Banta is in charge of the concern as manager of the branch house and has supervision of all the departments included within the establishment. In addition to the sales department these comprise a very complete stock department, second-hand department, storage and repair departments. The service department employs about 50 men all the time. One minor item may be mentioned to show the care with which some of the Chicago companies strive to serve their patrons. In the Locomobile machine room there is one man and a helper who do nothing whatever but to list, classify, store and keep in repair the tools used by the others. Thus when a certain type of tool is required for a certain job the mechanic does not have to waste any time getting it, and, better still, does not have to spend a minute in sharpening it or preparing it for its use. This results in saving considerable time to customers on big and small repair work.
On the east side of the avenue is a row of stores that represent the very last word in automobile selling. Some of the competitors of the concerns housed in this row have dubbed it “The Orphanage,” but that designation is hardly deserved. The building is a two-story affair and is just being completed. The first store is occupied by the Waverley Electric selling agency. Next to that store, at No. 2007, is the Chicago distributing station for the Cino, made by Haberer & Co., of Cincinnati, O. The name of the concern is the Cino Motor Car Co. and 100 cars have been contracted for this year.
There is only room to show one car in the front window of any of these stores, as the width is only 20 feet. Behind each of them is a small garage and storerooms, and while the capacity of each is small, the activity of all the establishments promises well in the selling field.
Next south of the Cino is the store of the Warren-Detroit Sales Co., which has contracted for 200 cars and has part of Illinois and Indiana in addition to the Chicago territory in which to sell them. Last year this company in another location handled 100 Cars.
Next in order is the Lexington Motor Co. and the Ohio Electric Vehicle Co., handling respectively the Lexington and Ohio Electric. At 2017 Michigan avenue is the Pratt-Elkhart Motor Car Co., general distributors of this new Indiana-made car. The selling concern has 25 States for a field and expects to place 500 cars this season. Last year the company put out 130 automobiles.
Left—The Cartercar Company
Right—Oakland Car Company
2019 S. Michigan
R. A. Wadsworth & Co. comes next with the Oakland line. This company has parts of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin in its territory and has contracted for 250 cars to fill its orders. The home of the Cunningham in Chicago adjoins that of the Oakland on the south. This car is going well in Chicago. Fred F. Jenkins Co. finishes the row as far as automobile dealers are concerned, the other stores being occupied by accessory salesrooms. The Jenkins line consists of the Empire, for which contracts have been made for 125 cars; the Rayfield, a big new car, of which the company will try to sell about 50, and the Elkhart, as it is called in Chicago, but which is known in New York as the Crow, née Black-Crow, of which the allotment is about 50. “The Orphanage,” as it is unjustly called, is one of the striking bits along the row and is typical and indicative of the spirit that pervades automobile selling in Chicago.
Crossing the street again to the corner of Twenty-first brings one to the Chicago establishment of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Co., an element in the recently formed Studebaker Corporation. This company has a splendid building, an elaborate showroom, garage and service departments and is one of the show spots of the Chicago industry. Business was lively at the Studebaker establishment during the visit of the representative of THE AUTOMOBILE, there being literally one dozen interested customers on the floor at the time. The manager explained that trade had come to life in a hurry and that the particular day referred to was in reality the opening of the spring season. The company handles the Studebaker 40, of which contracts for 50 have been made; the E-M-F line, of which they expect to sell 300 cars, and the Flanders 20, for which arrangements have been made for 200 cars. The territory includes parts of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana. The Chicago establishment occupies all the space represented by Nos. 2030 to 2036 Michigan avenue.
From Twenty-first to Twenty-second street there is a gap in the ranks of the automobile dealers, but just beyond the latter important thoroughfare is the store of the Bird-Sykes Co., 2210-12 Michigan avenue, where the Corbin line manufactured at New Britain, Conn., and the Matheson line, made at Wilkes Barre, Pa., are handled. The Corbins enjoy a rather extensive patronage in Chicago and a considerable number of Mathesons will be handled this year by the Chicago agency during the current season, as indications are.
At the northeast corner of Twenty-third street is the Chicago branch of the E. R. Thomas Motor Co., of Buffalo, N. Y. This line has long been a favorite in the Windy City and the local customers of the Thomas are among the leaders in many of the activities of the city’s life. The building, while smaller than that of several of the selling companies, is artistic and impressive in architecture and affords a commanding position to the branch house.
Passing Twenty-third street one comes to a big bunch of important agencies and branch concerns. The first of these is the store and building of the Quality Car Co., which handles the Premier and Moline in Chicago. This company has the whole building at 2329 Michigan avenue. It is a beautiful building, although the showroom is small, affording only space enough to display four cars. It has a big garage and storeroom in the rear and above stairs and does a lively business.
Left–Showing a portion of the Chicago home of the Brush runabout and delivery car, 2328 Michigan avenue
Right—The Henry Motor Car Sales Company, 1507 Michigan avenue,distributes the entire factory product
Across the avenue at 2328 is the Chicago home of the Brush runabout. This selling company has been in existence for three years and serves a large outside territory with a supply of these serviceable pleasure automobiles and light delivery cars. The Brush business reaches a large annual total and the car is a favorite among all classes, numerous owners of big automobiles having one or more of the runabouts for auxiliary service. First buyers of cars also furnish a considerable element in Brush business as the experience of all selling companies is that the motorist commences with a small car and works up to a big one.
The Mitchell Automobile Co., whose store is at 2334 Michigan avenue, is another big factor in the situation. The Mitchell company has an allotment of 1,000 cars for 1911 and Manager H. P. Moyer says that he looks for a car shortage before the end of the season. The Mitchell company has been active in the selling field since 1904, when 45 cars were sold. The territory covered by this concern includes parts of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. In addition to salesroom and selling equipment the company has a large machine shop, garage and storage facilities. The Mitchell company handles the second-hand car situation by adhering to the rule of not taking anything but Mitchells in exchange for new cars.
At the corner of Twenty-fourth street, No. 2355-57 Michigan avenue, is the Chicago Motor Car Co., distributers of the Packard in Chicago, northern Illinois and part of Indiana. This concern occupies a building that is ranked among the most beautiful and efficient along the row. It is massive in its construction and delightfully artistic in its conception as a salesroom and service department. The windows on Michigan avenue and Twenty-fourth street are among the largest in Chicago and the interior fittings are superb. The Packard has a big clientèle in Chicago and the only trouble of which the management complains is shortage of car supply. In order to obtain the splendid picture that was taken in the quarters of the Chicago Motor Car Co. it was necessary to remove the only car in stock, a rebuilt model of 1908, and replace it with the car shown which belongs to a customer.
South from Twenty-fourth street there are a myriad of dealers and agencies. Paulman & Co., who handle the Pierce-Arrow line, are located at 2420 Michigan avenue. This company does an exclusive business with the wealthiest section of Chicago’s populace and is constantly ahead of its available supply. It has a complete service department at the command of its customers.
The Detroit Electric, next to the Pierce-Arrow, has one of the most beautiful small establishments on the “Row.” Press of trade was so heavy during the visit of the representative of THE AUTOMOBILE that a photograph of this store could not be obtained.
The Cadillac store in the same locality is a popular place for buyers and across the street at 2425 are the quarters of the Furmer Motor Car Co. This concern has been doing business since 1909, when it sold nine cars to the Chicago public. This year Mr. Furmer asserts the Overland contract is for 700 automobiles. He is a great believer in the efficiency of THE AUTOMOBILE as a means of reaching the public and he says that he has distributed over 10,000 copies of the elaborate advertisement of the Overland that appeared in this publication some time ago. The Furmer company has five counties in Illinois in addition to
the city as a selling field.
At 2441–45 Michigan avenue is the Western Motor Car Co., handling the Stearns and the Broc Electric. Chicago takes about 100 Stearns cars a year and the Broc line has been added to supply the big local demand for all kinds of electric cars.
The McDuffee Automobile Co., Twenty-fifth and Michigan avenue, is headquarters for the sale of Stoddard-Daytons and the Rauch & Lang electric. This company plans to sell 450 of the gasoline cars in its line this season, and announces that a considerable portion of the allotment is already disposed of. The electrics are also going freely.
The Peerless branch house at 2500 Michigan avenue ranks in appearance with any selling concern on the “Row,” or, in fact, anywhere else. It has an immense building with a showroom that rivals that of the Locomobile company in richness and general impressiveness. Like the Peerless customers elsewhere the patronage of this concern includes many of the wealthy people of the city. The territory held by this branch includes parts of Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. Its allotment is 200 cars. According to the management the Peerless line will consist of three “sixes,” two “fours” and three trucks.
The Stevens-Duryea branch is above Twenty-fifth street, this line having been taken over by the factory rather recently. It was formerly handled by Louis Geyler Co., at 2519-21 Michigan Ave
The Geyler Company now sells the Hudson line, and is enjoying a lively trade, as is shown by the fact that 78 cars out of the allotment of 350 had been sold and delivered up to the time of the visit of THE AUTOMOBILE. There were orders on the books of the company for nearly as many more and insistent hurry orders had been sent to the factory for more cars.
The Kissel Motor Co., of Chicago, marketing the Kissel-Kar, is located at 2515 Michigan avenue, and has a contract for 300 automobiles for this season.
The Nyberg Automobile Works, which recently purchased the plant of the Rider-Lewis Co., is the general sales company of the factory. H. W. Williams, manager, declares that several thousand cars will be manufactured this year, and will be marketed from Chicago headquarters, which are No. 2437-39 Michigan avenue. In 1909 the Nyberg company made and sold 300 cars and in 1910 its production was 600. This year the figure estimated by the manager was 5,000 cars. The company does an extensive trading business, over one-half of the sales being made on an exchange basis. Mr. Williams says that there is a distinct inquiry for used cars.
The Pope-Hartford agency is the last one in this group, and between it and the next salesroom there is a long stretch of boulevard. As has been noted, the limits of the “Row” are occupied by the Apperson, which is just off the boulevard and the Moon near Thirty-ninth street.
Chicago Examiner October 8, 1911
WITH a setting of flowers, music and thousands of lights the world’s most famous automobile selling colony opened Its. first annual street motor car show yesterday afternoon and evening. The portion of Michigan avenue from Twelfth to Thirtieth streets, generally known as “Automobile Row,” was the favorite promenade of thousands of curious and interested pedestrians with an ambition to inspect the down-to-the-minute automobiles—meaning, of course, the 1912 models of more than a hundred various makes of motor cars now offered tor demonstration and sale.
The street show will continue day and evening throughout this entire week, and during that period thousands of people living both In and out of Chicago will be given an unusual opportunity to study the scope of the automobile industry as in is exploited in the largest and most elaborate motor car selling colony in the world.
Not more than one In 250 people in Chicago really own an automobile, according to state registration. Itis natural, therefore, that a large share of Chicago’s immense population should never have occasion to visit the portion of Michigan avenueutilized by the concerns interested in the sale of motor cars, motorcycles, motor delivery wagons and motor car sundries and accessories.
STREET SHOW A NOVELTY.
With the above fact iu mind makers of automobiles have been more than willing to co-operate with dealers of the local colony in preparing a street show, just at the period of the year when most concerns are exploiting their new -nodels, spick and span, and at a time when hundreds of prospective car owners are considering the advisability of purchasing an automobile equipped with closed body for Winter use.
Heretofore makers and sellers of automobiles have waited for January or February, when the annual automobile show is booked. Originally this idea was good, for no manufacturer thought of displaying a new model until the beginning of the year. As time went on, however, the new cars began to creep into town before New Year, then a month or two earlier; eventually the appearance of a car six months in advance created no sensation, and this year many 1912 models were shown early in the Summer of 1911.
Dealers still believe more or less in the necessity of an annual show, to take place in the Coliseum or some similar building, next February, but they are not so keen about it as they were a few years ago. Eventually, of course, the Coliseum show, with its furore and crowds, will be done away with, and dealers will show their cars within their own stores— the natural place for close inspection of the individual products.
INDOOR SHOW MAY BE GIVEN UP.
Indeed, there are many dealers with confidence ln the type of exposition now taking place, inasmuch as every dealer is able to display his wares under the most favorable auspices, with the entire sales and demonstrating staff at the whim of the interested spectator.
If the new method pleases the public to the extent that dealers are favored with numerous orders for cars, the present plan of simultaneous exhibitions will be carried on each year,and the indoor show of mid-Winter will soon be relegated to ancient history.
Judging by the number of people along Michigan avenue yesterday, the public is vitally interested in a study of the latest models of automobiles, and the dealers predict that a half-million people will inspect the 1912 models before next Saturday night.
In order that the street show may be as picturesque as it is instructive, the Chicago Automobile Trade Dealers’ Association has arranged a system of light decorations which in itself will draw thousands of people to the neighborhood. Clusters of incandescent lights have been suspended across the boulevard at even distances, making the street as light during the evening as it is during the day.
Street Has Carnival Aspect.
Decorative standards have been placed at each street intersection, with large globes placed at the apex of each, and in a general way the entire avenue has been given a carnival aspect. Thousands of automobile parties drove through the boulevard yesterday afternoon and evening for the purpose of enjoying the external features of the exposition.
Within the hundreds of splendid sales buildings are individual exhibits, each worth a half-day of anybody’s time, providing the spectator has the slightest intention of purchasing an automobile.
Not alone are the new models being shown, but in several branches and agencies are old cars of historic interest. Compared with the new models the old cars are laughingly interesting, and so marked is the change that one marvels at the radical changes which have taken place within the short period of ten or fifteen years since the inception of the automobile industry.
For the entertainment of casual visitors several stores are giving moving picture shows with subjects of au automobile aspect. Motor cars climbing tbe bills of this country and Europe; portions of automobile races aud contests or! ruaUs or hills; scenes ln the picturesque valleys
of tbe East, South and West; illustrations of various phases of motor car construction us wrought ln the great automobile factories of Detroit, Cleveland and other motor car centers.
Many of tbe stores have been decorated in a pleasing manner indicative of the enterprise and taste of tbe various dealers, and the entire colouy mauifests a business-holiday aspect.
One of the interesting features of tbe week of the show is the scheme of hauling the people from one eud of the row to the other, which will be at fie same time a sort of general demonstration.
Chicago Tribune, October 15, 1908
Chicago Tribune, February 6, 1910
Chicago has the most imposing automobile row of any city in the country, and claim for a world’s record might well be made without much chance of there being any dispute over the assertion. In no other city have the makers and agents of cars and the purveyors of motoring accessories grouped together as they have in Chicago, and the result is an imposing “row” in Michigan avenue, which now, is a veritable motor mart with most of the business houses representatives of automobile resources.
While at the present time the row is a pretentious one, most of the concerns are congested in a stretch from Twelfth to Sixteenth street, but before summer rolls around the row will extend from Twelfth street on the north to Thirty-first street on the south, because of the stampede on the part of many to get away from the high rents found at the north end of the street. This has led to the establishment of a southern colony, in which are found many of the makes of high grade cars. The heart of the new colony, is around Twenty-fourth street, and, while not all of them have completed their new stores, building operations are progressing at such a rate that most of them will be in before summer.
It has been estimated that during the last year the new leases made involve building operations that amount to $4,000,000. In which thirty-one concerns are interested. As there are more than 100 different makes of cars handled in Chicago, one can get only a faint idea of the scope and magnitude of the industry from this. The land values involved in the present building operations foot up to more than $2,000,000, while the new buildings themselves are valued at as much.
Some really pretentious buildings are going up. The Studebakers are erecting a seven story building at the northwest corner of Twenty-first street and Michigan that is designed to be a model of its kind and which will involve the expenditure of $250,000 on the building, while the land is valued at $150,000. The new Maxwell building at the north-eats corner of Eighteenth street, represent $300,000, the property being about the highest priced on the street. The Maxwell people have been in their new place now for more than two months. James E. Plew, agent for the White, and sho is Chicago’s pioneer aeroplane dealer, is building an immense establishment in Wabash avenue, near Twenty-seventh street. This, of course, is not part of the Michigan avenue row, but it is so close that it generally is regarded as being “on the row.” The Plew building and land are valued at $250,000. The Locomobile’s new place at the southwest corner of Michigan and Twentieth street is a $250,000 proposition and already A. J. Banta is in possession of his new quarters.
The Thomas company, which is one of the concerns represented by a branch, is in temporary quarters at the north end of the row pending the completion of its new building at Michigan and Twenty-third. To make room for this store the old Baker homestead at the northeast corner was torn down. The Thomas branch means a $200,000 investment. Two other costly buildings are going up at Twenty-fifth street. On the northeast corner the McDuffee Automobile company, agent for the Stoddard-Dayton and Courier, is putting up a four story building that will be complete in all its appointments and on which $200,000 will be spent. Catacorner to the McDuffee establishment will be the new Tennant store, which will be housed the Peerless and Marmon. Here the investment will be $210,000. The Packard agency is impatiently awaiting the completion of its new store at the northeast corner of Twenty-fourth street, worth $211,000.
Others awaiting completion of building operations are Adams & Engs, who will locate at 1619, the Ralph Temple company going in at 2313, the Detroit electric branch at 2416, the Fiat branch at 2347, the Speedwell at 2411, the Alco branch at the southeast corner of Twenty-fifth street, the Kisselkar at 2547, the Buick at Calumet, and Twenty-first, and the Apperson at Indiana and Thirty-third.
The Hudson Motor Showroom
2222-2228 South Michigan Ave
Architect: Alfred Alschuler
The Buick establishment is wholesale only. It is intended to use the building for a big warehouse and also for the offices of the branch. The retail store will remain in its present location, near Fourteenth street.
The retail trade of Chicago sees many changes during the course of the year. New cars come in and old ones go out, but still the list grows, and it is hardly likely that even New York eclipses Chicago as to the total number of makes represented, despite the fact that in New York the foreign representation is strong indeed. A count taken just befre the first of the year shows that there were only seventy-three makes of American cars represented in Gotham and twenty agents of foreign cars, so Chicago seems to have the call.
Among the new cars that are on sale in Chicago this year, and which have come on the street since the last show are the Cole, Standard Six, Parry, Interstate, Columbus-Firestone, Staver-Chicago, Everitt, Pope-Hartford, Fiat, Petrel, Flanders, Ohio, Mercer, Courier, Badger, Abbott-Detroit, Krit, Ricketts, Empire, and Hudson.
Chicago always has been loyal to American made cars, and there are few of foreign make represented. Of these are thew Fiat, De Dion, Renault, Berliet, and Isotta. The Fiat and Renault, the former Italian and the latter French, are represented by branches. Emanuel Lascaris has the French De Dion. Walden Shaw the French Berliet, and G. Thurber the Italian Isotta.
1911 STREET MAP OF MOTOR ROW
Chicago Tribune, October 8, 1911
Motor Row at Night, Showing Lighting Effects
Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1911
Motor Row remained the city’s largest concentration of automobile and specialty showrooms until after World War II. A 1933 city guidebook still referred to Michigan Avenue south of 18th Street as “Automobile Row,” noting that lining either side of the street “are the salesrooms of virtually all American and many foreign motor cars.” New construction in Motor Row culminated in 1936 with the opening of the Illinois Automobile Club at 2400 S. Michigan. Its design by Philip B. Maher is a Moderne- style adaptation of the Spanish Mission style, featuring a three-story clock tower. In the 1950s the building was acquired by the Chicago Defender newspaper.
Following World War II, the movement of automobile dealers to outlying commercial streets (e.g., Ashland, Cicero, and Western avenues) escalated, although the new sales buildings often were secondary to the drama of their large-scale neon signs. Still, despite the passage of nearly a century, no other commercial strip in the city or the United States comes close to duplicating either the importance or character of the Motor Row District on South Michigan Avenue.
Borland Grannis Advertising Card