In the 1920's, if you lived in St. Louis, the best place to shop for a new car was probably along Locust Avenue.  Just a short distance east of downtown, Locust was home to many of the areas biggest auto dealers, including Ford, Packard, Maxwell, Moon, and others. The Horseless Carriage Club of Missouri, and Hilliker Corporation, recently held ceremonies to dedicate historic plaques honoring the marques that were sold from many of the buildings still standing on Locust.  The weather was perfect for this year's event, which was held on October 15, 2005. It was a great excuse to get out and see some cars that are very seldom shown.  Each building had at least one example of the marques that were originally sold from these buildings, although relatively few of my photos show the actual cars, because my battery went dead about 30 minutes into the proceedings.  By chance, I happened to be back in the neighborhood the next day, with a recharged battery to finish photographing the buildings.  That was unfortunate, as I missed out on photographing the magnificent black Marmon V-16, the cute little red Maxwell roadster, and the slippery Chrysler Airflow that all showed up for this special event.  Still, I was able to squeeze out quite a few pics, as you'll see below.

The Tow Truck

The event kicked off at about 11:00, as this 1947 Nash Towtruck pulled the Horseless Carriage Club's podium down the street, complete with a 4 piece trombone band, which goes by the name of "The Boneheads" in tow. 

Getting ready at the podium are at left, Peter Bitzer, President of the HCCMO, and on the right, Gerald Perschbacher, who is on the HCCMO's Board of Directors, and also a frequent contributor to Old Cars Weekly Magazine, from Krause Publications.  In the background, you can see the Boneheads getting warmed up...

The Stearns Knight Building

One of the events hosts was the Charles Motor Car Co., which is a classic car dealership operating out of the old Stearns-Knight Building.  Note the near perfect 1958 Cadillac Fleetwood inside the showroom... Here's what the newly dedicated plaque tells us about the building:

"This structure was originally the dealership building in St. Louis, for the Stearns-Knight automobile. Over the years, it also housed dealerships for the Stutz, Lexington, Gardner and Inter-state automobiles and the Hug truck.

The Stearns, built in Cleveland, Ohio, commencing 1901, became the Stearns-Knight in 1912, when it acquired the first American license to manufacture the Knight engine. The Knight, a sleeve-valve motor, known for its quietness, was often called the "Silent Knight". George W. Booker, of the St. Louis agency became president of Stearns Knight in 1916, when Frank B Stearns retired at age 37. Mr. Booker was succeeded in 1925 by John North Willys of the Willy-Overland Co. Stearns Knight production ceased in 1929.

The Gardner automobiles were manufactured in St. Louis from 1920 through 1931 at Rutger and Main Streets. The Hug truck was manufactured at Highland, Illinois from 1921 to 1942."

The Car Show

On the other end of the street in a vacant lot that was once home to other auto dealerships, an impromptu car show cropped up with some real gems on display.  That little Model T with custom body work, showed off some very formal coachwork, and appeared to be a very solid survivor, even if some of the horse hair was poking through the driver's seat... It could be yours for $15,000, and created quite a buzz... Chances are good that it has been sold since this photo was taken. 

The neat little 1941 Desoto was sporting a fresh restoration, and had a mint original interior. In the background, you may notice there is a restored Mercury ragtop.

The 1957 Chrysler Saratoga belongs to a friend of ours, and was purchased from the original owner who bought it for his wife in '57.  When she died a short time later, he put the car away for the next 30+ years, and built a shrine around it complete with candles.  It is an amazing super low mileage survivor...

Finally, this blue Ford ragtop is still in the hands of the original owner!  The 1966 Cadillac Series 75 limo was one of many in attendance that I've not seen before at any of the local shows.

The Cadillac Building

This was actually the first building on our walking tour...

The plaque reads:

"This building, designed by Nolte and Nauman, Architects, was built for Cadillac Automobile Co. of St. Louis, and remained the St. Louis Cadillac dealership showroom through 1919. Cadillac was already a respected luxury car, at the time this building was built. In 1908, Cadillac had become the first production car in the world to have fully interchangeable parts. From this achievement, came Cadillac's slogan, "Standard of the World". In 1912, Cadillac introduced the first self-starter, eliminating hand cranking, the cause of many broken arms. The Cadillacs sold from the building's showroom were powered by 314 cubic inch V-8 motors, which Cadillac had introduced in 1915, and had wheelbases of 125 inches to 145 inches.

Cadillac was founded by Henry Ford as the Henry Ford Motor Co. Upset by Henry Ford's preoccupation with auto racing, his financial backers forced Ford out in 1902 and renamed the company, Cadillac Automobile Co. Henry Ford went on to found Ford Motor Co.

After Cadillac, this building was, in sequence, Orthwein Chevrolet, Tilton Gardner Motor Co., Central Star and Durant Sales Co. and in 1929 and 1940, the Jordan St. Louis Co. The Gardner automobile was manufactured in St. Louis. The Jordan automobile, although a pioneer of hydraulic brakes, was as famous for its flamboyant ads, as for the car itself."

A couple of big Caddies on the street added a touch of class...

The Cadillac Chrysler Building

This is actually the other Cadillac building on Locust, and is located on the West end of the street, several blocks from the other dealership.  The plaque reads:

"This building, designed by Wm. A. Balsch, Architects, was built by Cadillac Automobile Co., of St. Louis when it outgrew its building at 2920-22 Locust St. The dealership became Oliver Cadillac in 1927, and remained here through 1930.

During the time this building was a Cadillac dealership, Cadillac entered the "Classic Car" era and Cadillac sales doubled as its wheelbases grew, up to 152 inches in length on some models. Synchromesh transmissions and four wheel, vacuum assisted brakes were introduced and its V-8 motor grew to 353 cubic inches with 96 horsepower. By 1930, an optional, 452 cubic inch V-16 motor, producing 185 horsepower was available.

In 1927, Cadillac introduced the LaSalle, promoted as a "Companion Car to Cadillac". With Cadillac like quality, but slightly smaller, on a 125 inch wheelbase and with a smaller V-8 motor, the LaSalle was sold in Cadillac showrooms, until it was replaced by the Cadillac Model 61, in 1941.

From 1932 through 1948, this building housed the L.M. Stewart, Inc., Chrysler-Plymouth dealership. Chryslers ranged from upper middle price cars, to its Imperial model, which were direct competitors of Cadillac. In 1934, Chrysler introduced the Airflow, a marketing disappointment despite its revolutionary design and construction improvements, including being the first American car with unitized construction."

The Franklin Building

Although the building has been face lifted at some time in the past, if you look hard you can see some of the original features behind the facade to the Franklin building.  The plaque reads:

"From the time of its construction and into the 1920's this building housed the St. Louis dealership for the Franklin, a luxury automobile. The Franklin was the only large production automobile ever made in America with an air cooled engine. It was manufactured in Syracuse, NY from 1902 through 1934.

This structure has also served as the dealership building for Grant, Case and National automobiles. The Case automobile was manufactured from 1911 to 1927 by the JI Case Threshing Machine Co., of Racine, Wisconsin."

Two of the sharpest cars on display that day were this magnificent Franklin Pirate, and the sporty little Auburn Cabriolet...

The deep burgundy Franklin Pirate was very unusual in that its doors are curved along the bottom edge, flaring out toward vestigial running boards, really no more than small metal strips that were more decorative than functional.  This car is also unusual in that it is actually a dual cowl convertible sedan, complete with roll up rear windows.  I've never seen anything quite like it... Magnificent!

The Cole Standard Building

The plaque reads:

"This building, designed by Preston Bradshaw, Architect, exemplifies the turmoil and rapid changes during the years when the automobile was revolutionizing the lives of St. Louisans. Between 1919 and 1935, this building was the home of ten different auto dealerships.

Initially, the east side of this building was occupied by the Cole Motor Co. and the west side was occupied by Standard Automotive Corporation. Cole Motor Co., under the leadership of Joseph J. Cole of Indianapolis, Ind., produced a highly respected, large, 8 cylinder car. The Standard, also a large, 8 cylinder car, was produced by a railroad car manufacturer, the Standard Steel Car Co., of Butler, Penn.

In 1921 and 1922, the west side of the building also sold Holmes automobiles, which were well designed and built, air-cooled cars. Holmes Automobile Co. was established in 1918, by the former chief engineer for Franklin, air-cooled automobiles.

In 1923, the east side of the building sold Cunningham automobiles. Cunninghams were massive cars, built in Rochester, NY, with unusually powerful motors, and considered by many to be the finest luxury cars of that time."

The Ford Building

The plaque reads:

"The east side of this building initially housed the BF Goodrich Tire dealer for St. Louis and the west side housed General Motor Car Co., the St. Louis Hupmobile dealer.

From 1917 to 1934 the building was the home of a Ford automobile dealership, Tevis Motor Co. During this period, the cars in the showroom of the building evolved from the Model T, "the car that put America on wheels," to, in 1932, the first popular priced car with a V-8 motor. Briefly, in the 1930's a dealership for Auburn and Cord occupied the building. In 1929, the cord became the first front wheel drive car in the world to be produced in quantity. However, the Cord is best remembered for its art deco styled, "coffin nosed" 1936 and 1937 models."

The Maxwell Building

The plaque reads:

"From 1910 through 1924 this building housed the Maxwell and the Chalmers automobile dealership.

Walter P. Chrysler, former president of Buick Motors and Willys-Overland, acquired control of the Maxwell Automobile Co. in 1923. Within a year, he terminated manufacturing of the Maxwell, which had existed since 1905 and the Chalmers, which had existed since 1908, introducing in their place, in 1924, a new, more powerful car, the Chrysler. This building became then, a Chrysler dealership.

When Chrysler vacated, this building became the home of Orthwein Motor Co., a Chevrolet dealership."

The Locomobile Building

The plaque reads:

"This building initially served as the St. Lolius dealership for the Locomobile automobile. The structure later housed the dealership for the Davis Six and Maibohm automobiles. The Locomobile, a massive luxury car, was manufactured from 1899 to 1929 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. As its name implies, the Locomobile was originally steam powered, but it was changed to internal combustion in 1903.

Premier Recording Studios moved into this building during World War II. Under the direction of Premier Recording Studios and its successor, Berzerker Studios, artists Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Ike and Tina Turner, and Chuck Berry recorded in this buiding. Programs of the long term, nationally televised show, Wild Kingdom were recorded here, with Marlin Perkins as host."

The Nash Building

I love Nashes, so naturally, this building fascinated me...

The plaque reads:

"From 1920 through 1931 this building was the home of Southwest Nash Co., a dealership for Nash Automobiles, Nash Trucks, and Ajax Automobiles.

From 1932 through 1934 this building housed Southwest Willys Co., a dealership for Willys Overlans Automobiles and Trucks and Willys-Knight Automobiles.

Charles W. Nash was abandoned by his parents at age 6. At age 12, he fled from the farm he had been bound to, and got a job as a cushikn stuffer in The Durant Buggy factory. He rose to President of Buick Motors and then to President of General Motors Corporation, resigning from that position in 1916, to found Nash Motor Co."

I'm not quite sure what this green convertible coupe really is...?  Perhaps an astute Huff Report reader can enlighten me on this one.  Note the lightning bolt on the radiator...

This black Terraplane sedan was driven to this event by Bill Hubert, a well known St. Louis hobbyist.  Bill has a soft spot for those orphan cars... This one appears to be a 1937 model.

The big green Nash Touring car looked period perfect parked near the front door of the old Nash Building...

The Stutz Building

One of the fanciest old buildings on the block, the Stutz plaque reads:

"From 1918 through 1924, this building housed the Supreme Motor Co., the St. Louis Dealer for the Stutz automobile.

The Stutz was manufactured from 1911 to 1935 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Initially under the ownership and direction of then famous automotive engineer, Harry C. Stutz. The Stutz which was well known for its Bearcat and Blackhawk open speedster models, was also famous for its racing successes. But, Stutz also produced sumptuous touring cars, sedans and limousines on wheelbases up to 156 inches long.

In 1915, the Stutz became one of the first automobiles to have a motor with four valves per cylinder."

The Durant Star Building

Fascinating stuff... The plaque reads:

"First occupied in 1912 by Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. and Oldsmobile Co. of St. Louis, then by dealerships for Buick, Nash and Lafayette, this building was a dealership for the Star and the Durant automobiles from 1924 to 1930.

In 1920, William Crapo Durant, the founder of General Motors Corp., lost control of General Motors (for the second time) to his bankers, led by J.P. Morgan. On January 21, 1921, Durant founded Durant Motors, Inc., to compete with General Motors in every price range. The Star, which at one point had 231,000 cash deposit orders, competed with Chevrolet and teh Durant competed with Oakland (Pontiac). Other makes introduced by Durant Motors were the Flint and Rugby. The luxurious Locomobile and Mason Trucks, were acquired by Durant Motors. Financially stretched by rapid expansion, Durant Motors, Inc. was ill prepared for the Depression and liquidated in 1933. Despite losing everything, Durant, then 71, tried several smaller ventures, but soon had a stroke. In 1947, the man who founded General Motors Corporation, Frigidaire Appliances and introduced the installment buying of automobiles died, destitute in New York."

The Packard Building

Many blocks to the east, is this grand old building, the home to the original Berry Packard Dealership.  Today, this building is being renovated and converted into lofts... Check out the website link by clicking HERE for more information on the Packard Lofts...


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