Unlisted Philadelphia: Automobile Row

 

Editor’s Note: A version of this story was published in the Fall 2018 issue of Extant, a publication of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

Unlisted Philadelphia highlights interesting and significant Philadelphia buildings not yet listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. To learn more about the local designation process and how you can participate in nominating a building to the Philadelphia Register, visit the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s website for more information.

BUILDING: Automobile Row

LOCATION: 800-810 North Broad Street

ARCHITECTS: Various

YEARS: 1916-1922

North Broad Street was once known as Philadelphia’s Automobile Row, with scores of auto factories, showrooms, garages, and parts suppliers lining the blocks between Spring Garden Street and Girard Avenue. The rubber truly met the road on the 800 block, where no fewer than five tire companies built jewel-box showrooms and warehouses, each clad in gleaming white terra cotta. Though the tires are long gone, much of the terra cotta survives, at least for now. Look closely and you can still see inscriptions in the cornices for Michelin Tires and the Republic Rubber Company. With redevelopment of North Broad Street and nearby Ridge Avenue in high gear, historic designation is now imperative for this last great vestige of Automobile Row.

About the author

Ben Leech is a preservationist, architectural historian and illustrator based in Philadelphia and Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Instagram @bentleech and support his capitalist alter-ego at Archivolt Press



2 Comments


  1. Liked your mini-piece on the auto row and the neat artwork. However I expected more about cars and dealerships than the number of rubber vendors. And please don’t use such an archaic line as ‘no fewer than’. This rather insults the reader’s intelligence as we are quite willing to believe you that there were five such places. At some point there has been fewer than five, and it would be quite silly for me to note ‘there are no lesser than zero’now. Just an observation.

  2. Just the other day me and a friend hopped off the train at Suburban station and headed up N.Broad to check out phase 1 of the new Railway Park at Noble street.On the way up she was surprised to several older buildings featuring large showroom windows on the ground floor.I then explained to her how this several block stretch on N.Broad used to be Phillys auto row for dealers and parts suppliers. Back in the 20s not many folks had cars or dealers in their neighborhood. However, they did have the Broad street subway to hop on and go shopping for their buggies along the stretch known as auto row!Most striking is the beautiful restoration of the former Packard Motor Company building which serves as a welcoming gateway to this rapidly developing section of North Broad!

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