|A publication of the|
Central Oklahoma Classic Chevy Club.
A not-for-profit corporation.
A chapter of Bow Tie Chevys
and Classic Chevy International.
Automobile Alley Historic District listed|
on National Register of Historic Places
|Origin of name "Automobile Alley" remains lost in Oklahoma history
The downtown Automobile Alley Historic District, which was the primary home of new car dealers in Oklahoma City from 1911 to 1948 mostly on North Broadway, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The historic district extends from NW 4th Street to West Park Place on North Broadway and on the north side of NW 10th Street to one-half block west of North Robinson Ave., said Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Melvena Heisch.
"The district is architecturally significant for its collection of one-story and two-story commercial buildings related to the automobile industry," said Heisch. "More than half the buildings are of the commercial style. The second most predominant style is Classical Revival."
The commercial significance includes the establishment of used car dealers, parts suppliers, repair firms and service stations in addition to new car dealers, said Heisch. The area currently is being revitalized by a Main Street Program along Broadway.
The exact origin of the name, "Automobile Alley", is unknown, Heisch said, though one long-time resident recalled hearing it as early as the 1930s.
The earliest written reference found in State Historic Preservation Office research was in 1980. North Broadway was platted as a 100-foot wide street with Oklahoma City's founding in 1889. It originally was developed with houses and became a streetcar route in 1903.
The Buick Motor Co. building at 504 N. Broadway was built in 1911. It had room for only a small inventory of cars, and salesmen took factory orders for most buyers. When Buick moved to 1101 N. Broadway in 1926, the much larger building had room for more inventory.
This and other district buildings had large elevators for moving cars to upper floors.
"By 1916, the number of automobiles in Oklahoma City was greater than the number of horses," Heisch said. "Oklahoma City auto dealers sold Dodge, Buick, Franklin, Reo, Chevrolet and Chandler cars as well as Ford cars assembled in Oklahoma City. By 1919, one could also buy a Stutz Bearcat or Pierce-Arrow."
In 1921, Oklahoma City had 76 auto dealerships, including 52 in Automobile Alley. A 1923 report estimated that 95 percent of the state's 244,883 registered autos were distributed through Oklahoma City dealerships.
In 1929, new cars sold within the district included Chevrolet, Studebaker, Erskine, Hupmobile, Oakland, Pontiac, Graham-Paige, Buck, Nash, Chrysler, Cadillac and La Salle. Suppliers and repair firms also located in the district and on nearby streets.
In 1919, Magnolia Petroleum Co. opened a service station on the open first floor of its headquarters at 722 N. Broadway. Other firms in the district include ignition manufacture, tire sales, auto financing, garages, parts distributors and used cars. After World War II, thousands of new homes were built far from downtown, and dealers began to move out of the district.
By 1960, only three dealers remained.
Chevy the last dealer
The last new car dealer in the district was Steve Burke Chevrolet in the 700 and 800 blocks of Broadway. It left Automobile Alley in 1983. A redevelopment project was started on Broadway during the early 1980s, but it was abandoned during the energy and real estate slump of the mid-1980s.
Now, the buildings house a variety of commercial uses, including offices, auto detailing, photo imaging, auto parts, a bar, a church, used car sales and a filling station. In addition to the commercial and classical revival styles, district buildings include Art Deco detailing at 1117 N. Robinson, international style features at 622 N. Broadway.
For more information, contact the State Historic Preservation Office at (405) 521-6249.