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Chicago's Motor Row

Filed under:  History
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Motor Row remained Chicago'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.”

motor row banner

Motor Row banners. (source: Segura)

New construction in Motor Row culminated in 1936 with the opening of the Illinois Automobile Club at 2400 South 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.

Motor Row By Peter B. Wight. Architectural Record April, 1910
Probably never before lias 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.


Automobile Row. West Side, from 14th to 16th Streets, Michigan Boulevard. (source: Chicagology).

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.


(left) Continental Casualty Co., Nos. 1208-10-12. Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, Architects. (right) The REO (on left) and Splerliug & Linden, Decorators (on right), 1218-20-22. Howard Shaw, Architect. (source: Chicagology).

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 case 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.


(left) Ford Motor Co.. 1444-46 Michigan, Christian Eckstorra, Architect. (right) The Studebacker, Northwest Corner, 21st Street, W. E. Walker, Architect. (source: Chicagology).

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 theaters.

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.


The Packard. Northeast Corner 24th Street. Albert Kahn. Architect. (source: Chicagology).

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.


(left) The Pierce, Nos. 2420-22, Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, Architects. (right) Nyberg, Dealer in all Makes, Nos. 2435-7, Howard Shaw, Architect. (source: Chicagology).

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.


(left) The Mollne, 1508. (right) The Mitchell, Nos. 2234-0-8.
Jarvis Hunt, Architect. (source: Chicagology).

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. The top image 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.


Locomobile, Southwest Corner 20th St. Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, Architects. (source: Chicagology).

locomobile showroom

Locomobile showroom at 2000 S. Michigan Avenue. (source: Chicagology).

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. The new building for the Continental Casualty Company, of enameled terra cotta with a gray brick border, by Jenney, Mundie & Jensen, and the house of Spierling and Linden, decorators, besides the Reo Building, both by Howard Shaw.


The Maxwell-Briscoe. Northeast Corner 18th Street. W. E. Walker, Architect. (source: Chicagology).

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 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.
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.

The Detroit Electric and Cadillac buildings are both faced entirely with enameled terra cotta. The Stearns Building 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 (left) The Detroit Electric, Nos.. 2110-18, George Mason. Architect. (right) The Cadillac. Nos.. 2112-11. Jenny, Mundle & Jensen. Architects. (source: Chicagology).

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 ⑭ (left) The Stearns, Nos. 2431-33. Figure ⑮ (right) A Taxicab Garage, Nos. 2441-43. Robert F. Smith, Architect. (source: Chicagology).


Figure ⑯ McDufee Automobile Co., Northeast Corner 25th Street. Holabird & Roche, Architects. (source: Chicagology).

stoddard dayton building

Stoddard Dayton Building, 2453 Michigan Avenue. December 1910. (source: Chicagology).


Premier showroom by the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company in 1910, located at 2329 Michigan Avenue.

Details of Establishments. by THE AUTOMOBILE
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.

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 100 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.

national showroom

Inter-State and National showroom at 1354 Michigan Avenue in Chicago. (source: Chicagology).

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.

knox showroom

Knox showroom, 1458 Michigan Avenue. (source: Chicagology).

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, 100 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 100 cars had been practically sold.

cole showroom

Cole Motor Company, at 1470 Michigan avenue sells the Cole and Westcott. (source: Chicagology).

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 showroom

Morrison Motor Car Company, 1716 Michigan avenue sold Garford and Case cars. (source: Chicagology).

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 100 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.

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, Ohio. 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.

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.

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.”

overland showroom

Overland, displayed at Furmer Motor Car Company on 2425 Michigan Avenue. (source: Chicagology).

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.

geyler showroom

The Louis Geyler Company at 2519-21 Michigan Avenue originally handled Stevens-Duryea, then Hudson. (source: Chicagology).

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 Avenue.

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.

geyler showroom hudson

A Hudson at the Louis Geyler Company at 2519-21 Michigan Avenue. (source: Chicagology).

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.

diamond rubber co 1523 1531 michigan 06

On May 1st, 1906, the Diamond Rubber Company consolidated its tire and mechanical branches at Chicago, and moved into the fine new three-story block at 1523-1531 Michigan Avenue. The new building has a stone front and provided 32,000 square feet of floor surface.

first regiment armory michigan16th

The First Regiment Armory, once located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and 16th street (where the 1906 Chicago Auto show was held).

Chicago's Motor Row sampling on Michigan Avenue (Maker-Dealer-Address)

Abbott-Detroit - Ajax Automobile Co - 1610 S. Michigan
Acme - J. D. Allen Co - 2447 S. Michigan
Alco - American Locomotive Co - 1201 S. Michigan
American - Kopmier Motor Car Co - 1507 S. Michigan
American-Simplex - Kramer Motor Car Co - 1413 S. Michigan
Anhut - Car Makers Selling Co - 1256 S. Michigan
Apperson - Apperson Motor Car Co - 1240 S. Michigan
Auburn - Adams & Engs - 1712 S. Michigan
Badger - Premier Motor Car Co - 2329 S. Michigan
Baker Electric - Ralph Temple Automobile Co - 1221 S. Michigan
Berliet - Walden W. Shaw Co - 2728 S. Michigan
Billy - Standard Automobile Co - 1326 S. Michigan
Brodesser - Eagye-Troutman Co - 1712 S. Michigan
Brush - Chicago Brush Motor Co - 2330 S. Michigan
Buick - Buick Motor Co. - 1452 S. Michigan
Cadillac - Cadillac Auto Co of Illinois - 2412 S. Michigan
Cartercar - Carter Car Co. - 2027 S. Michigan
Chadwick - B. C. Hamilton & Co. - 1218 S. Michigan
Chalmers - Levy & Hipple Motor Car Co - 1467 S. Michigan
Cole - Standard Automobile Co - 1326 S. Michigan
Columbia - Fred R. Jenkins - 1466 S. Michigan
Columbus Electric - Walden W. Shaw Co - 2728 S. Michigan
Corbin - Bird-Sykes Co. - 1470 S. Michigan
Courier - McDuffee Automobile Co - 1501 S. Michigan
Croxton-Keeton - Croxton-Keeton Motor Car Co - 2728 S. Michigan
Cunningham - Cunningham Car Co - 2341 S. Michigan
Cunningham - Cunningham, Jas., Son & Co - 2015 S. Michigan
D Dion Bouton - Emanuel Lascaris - 1223 S. Michigan
De Tamble - Car Makers Selling Co - 1256 S. Michigan
Detroit Electric - F. E. Price - 2416 S. Michigan
Duer - Chicago Coach & Carriage Co - 1223 S. Michigan
Economy Wagon/Auto Buggy - J. D. Allen Co - 2447 S. Michigan
Empire - Empire Automobile Agency - 1466 S. Michigan
F.I.A.T. - F.I.A.T. Automobile Co. - 1424 S. Michigan
E-M-F Co - Chicago E-M-F Co - 2031 S. Michigan
Flanders - Chicago E-M-F Co - 2031 S. Michigan
Everitt - Empire Automotive Agency - 1466 S. Michigan
Ford - Ford Motor Co. - 1444 S. Michigan
Franklin - Franklin Automobile - 1450 S. Michigan
Frayer-Miller - Adams & Engs - 1712 S. Michigan
Halladay - Rufus T. Brady - 1421 S. Michigan
Hudson - Levy & Hipple - 1467 S. Michigan
Hudson - Geyler, Louis - 2519 S. Michigan
Huppmobile - E. A. Hearne - 1424 S. Michigan
Inter-State Automobile Co - Inter-State - 1233 S. Michigan
Isotta - G. Thurber - 1220 S. Michigan
Jackson - Ralph Temple Automobile Co - 1221 S. Michigan
Kissel Kar - Kissel Motor Co - 1345 S. Michigan
Knox - Knoix Automobile Co - 1458 S. Michigan
Krit - Ajax Automobile Co - 1610 S. Michigan
Krit - Krit Motor Co - 1468 S. Michigan
Locomobile - Locomobile Motor Co. - 2000 S. Michigan
Lozier - Levy & Hipple - 1467 S. Michigan
Marion - Chicago Marion Co - 2450 S. Michigan
Marmon - Tennant Motor, Limited - 1449 S. Michigan
Marquette - Marquette Motor Co - 1240 S. Michigan
Matheson - Bird-Sykes Co. - 1470 S. Michigan
Maxwell - Maxwell-Briscoe Automobile Co. - 1737 S. Michigan
Midland - Kramer Motor Car Co - 1413 S. Michigan
Mitchell - Mitchell Automobile Co - 2338 S. Michigan
Moline - The Moline - 1508 S. Michigan
Moon - Centaur Motor Co - 1725 S. Michigan
Mora - Manhattan Motor Car Co - 1329 S. Michigan
Oakland - Wadsworth, R. A., & Co - 2019 S. Michigan
Oakland - Centaur Motor Co - 1725 S. Michigan
Ohio - W. C. O’Brien & Co - 1536 S. Michigan
Ohio Electric - Ohio Electric Vehicle Co - 2011 S. Michigan
Oldsmobile - Oldsmobile Works - 2035 S. Michigan
Overland - Overland Motor Car Co - 2425 S. Michigan
Packard - Chicago Motor Car Co - 2351 S. Michigan
Palmer & Singer - Palmer & Singer Mfg Co - 1321 S. Michigan
Parry - Manhattan Motor Car Co - 1329 S. Michigan
Peerless - Tennant Motor, Limited - 1449 S. Michigan
Petrel - Wisconsin Motor Car Co - 1806 S. Michigan
Pierce Arrow - H. Paulman Agency - 2420 S. Michigan
Pierce Racine - Morrison Motor Co - 1716 S. Michigan
Pope Hartford - Joseph B. Deibler - 1328 S. Michigan
Premier - Premier Motor Car Co - 2329 S. Michigan
Pullman - B. C. Hamilton & Co. - 1220 S. Michigan
R.A.C. - Paul Ricard - 1339 S. Michigan
Rambler - Thomas B. Jeffery Co - 1464 S. Michigan
Ranier - Centaur Motor Co - 1725 S. Michigan
Rapid - Siegmund-Baylies Co - 1420 S. Michigan
Regal - G. E. Holmes & Co - 1502 S. Michigan
Renault - Renault-Freres - 1606 S. Michigan
Reo - Reo - 1218 S. Michigan
Royal Tourist - Royal Motor Car Co - 1253 S. Michigan
Schacht - Cornish-Friedberg Motor Car Co - 1233 S. Michigan
Selden - Bullock Motor Co - 1409 S. Michigan
Silent Knight - Knight & Kilbourne - 1238 S. Michigan
Simplex - Palmer & Singer Mfg. Co - 1321 S. Michigan
Speedwell - Speedwell Motor Car Co - 1407 S. Michigan
Speedwell - Speedwell Motor Co. - 2411 S. Michigan
Springfield - Springfield Motor Co - 1549 S. Michigan
Stearns - Western Motor Car C - 2431-33 S. Michigan
Stevens-Duryea Co. - Louis Geyler Co - 1532 S. Michigan
Stoddard-Dayton - McDuffee Automobile Co - 1501 S. Michigan
Studebaker - Studebacker Bros. Motor Co - 2036 S. Michigan
Thomas Flyer - E. R. Thomas Motor Branch Co - 1323 S. Michigan
Velle - Velle Moror Car Co - 1615 S. Michigan
Buick Motor Co. - Welch - 1452 S. Michigan
Winton Motor Carriage Co - Winton - 1259 S. Michigan
Woods Electric - Woods Motor Vehicle Co - 1408 S. Michigan

(The majority of this article is thru the generosity and permission of Terry Gregory of Chicagology).

illinois automobile club iac crest

The Illinois Automobile Club building's "IAC" crest at entrance, located at 2400 Michigan Avenue. (source: Segura)

illinois automobile club building

The Illinois Automobile Club building, located at 2400 Michigan Avenue. It was acquired by The Chicago Defender (founded in 1905 by Robert Abbott) in the 1950s. On February 6, 1956, it became The Chicago Daily Defender, the largest black owned daily in the world. (source: Segura)

illinois automobile club in3

The Illinois Automobile Club building interior, located at 2400 Michigan Avenue. (source: Segura)

illinois automobile club in2

The Illinois Automobile Club building interior, located at 2400 Michigan Avenue. (source: Segura)

illinois automobile club in1

The Illinois Automobile Club building interior, located at 2400 Michigan Avenue. (source: Segura)

illinois automobile club window 1

The Illinois Automobile Club building stained glass window, located at 2400 Michigan Avenue. (source: Segura)

illinois automobile club window 3

The Illinois Automobile Club building stained glass windows, located at 2400 Michigan Avenue. (source: Segura)

marmon motor row 2

Marmon showroom on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. (source: Segura)

marmon motor row 1

Marmon showroom on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. (source: Segura)

hudson motor row 1

Hudson showroom on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. (source: Segura)

hudson motor row 3

Hudson showroom door emblem on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. (source: Segura)

hudson motor row 2

Hudson showroom interior on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. (source: Segura)

herreshoff 2337 motor row brewering

Herreshoff sales agent - Federal Motor Car located - at 2337 Michigan Avenue (now Motor Row Brewery). (source: Segura)

premier building sign 1

Premier showroom building logo located at 2329 Michigan Avenue.

premier building sign

Premier showroom building logo located at 2329 Michigan Avenue.

premier building 1

Premier showroom located at 2329 Michigan Avenue.


Below are select ads of companies on Michigan Avenue and automotive support businesses near this area.

thos b jeffery ad 05

Thos. B. Jeffery & Company's main office and factory was in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but this 1905 ad shows their Rambler dealership located at 302-304 Wabash in Chicago.

electric vehicli co ad 05

1905 Electric Vehicle Company ad, located at 1413 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

synnestvedt ad 05

1905 Synnestvedt Machine Company ad. This company manufactured several electric vehicles in Pittsburgh, and had a dealership at 1336 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

motor car supply ad 05

1905 Motor Car Supply Company ad, located at 1427 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

locomobile ad 06

1906 Locomobile dealership ad, located at 1354 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

herreshoff ad 1912

1912 Herreshoff ad by their sales agent, Federal Motor Car located at 2337 Michigan Avenue (now Motor Row Brewery). (source: Segura)


1914 Borland-Grannis "Borland Electric" ad. Located at 2634 Michigan Avenue. (source: Chicagology).

fal algonquin win ad 1911

1910 ad for FAL Motor Company, announcing their win at Algonquin. Located at 171 North May Street in Chicago.

ideal ad 1910

1910 ad for the Ideal Electric Company, located at 444 West Indiana Street in Chicago.

findeisenkroff ad 1910

1910 ad for the Findeisen & Kropf Manufacturing Company, makers of the Rayfield Carburetor. Their factory was at 21st and Rockwell, but the sales room was located at 1312 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

reichenbach ad 1910

1910 ad for Reichenbach Laboratories, makers of the Vortex Vaporizer (carburetor) and located at 2420 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

emil ad 1910

1910 ad for the Emil Grossman Company of NY, makers of the Hydraulic windshield, with its Chicago Branch office located at 1436 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

motor car supply ad 1910

1910 "Motor Car Supply Company" ad - located at 1451 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

long distance coolers ad 1910

1910 ad for Long Distance Coolers, located in Chicago.

browser ad 1910

1920 ad for S.F. Bowser & Company from Fort Wayne, who made underground gasoline storage systems from Indiana, with its Chicago office at 210 Fisher Building.

elba ad 1910

1910 ad for Elba Electric Lighting Systems, with its Chicago office at 320 Dearborn Street.

excelsior ad 1911

1910 Excelsior Supply Company ad, makers of batteries and located at the Randolph Street Bridge in Chicago.

excelsior supply

1906 Excelsior Supply Company ad for automobile supplies, located at the Randolph Street Bridge in Chicago.

excelsior supply 06 2

1906 Excelsior Supply Company, located at 233-237 Randolph in Chicago.

excelsior supply 06 3

1906 Excelsior Supply Company, located at 233-237 Randolph in Chicago.

ajax ad 1910

1910 Ajax-Grieb Rubber Company ad, makers of Ajax Tires and located at 1731 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

emil ad 1910

1910 ad for the Emil Grossman Company of NY, makers of the Hydraulic windshield, with its Chicago Branch office located at 1436 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

alfred c stewart ad 1910

1910 Alfred C. Stewart Machine Works ad makers of the Stewart Precision Carburetor, represented by L.S. Snow and Company, located at 256 East Madison in Chicago.

chalmers ad 1910

1910 ad for Chas F. Kellom & Company, makers of Invader Oil, and represented in Chicago by The Chalmers Motor Car Company, located at 1467-69 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

re hardy ad 1910

1910 ad for The R.E. Hardy Company,makers of the Sea-Rite spark plug, located at 1735 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

liquid carbonic ad 1910

1910 ad for The Liquid Carbonic, makers of the automatic liquid gas tire inflater and located at 440 Wells Street in Chicago.

imperial tires ad 1910

1910 ad for Imperial Tires, located at 1229 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

imperial specialties 06

1906 Imperial Specialties ad, located at 243 S. Jefferson Street in Chicago.

universal windshield ad 1911

1910 ad for the Universal Windshield Company located at 131 South Clinton in Chicago.

veeder odometer ad 1910

1910 ad for the Veeder Manufacturing Company, makers of odometers and located at 58 Wabash in Chicago.

pfanstiehl ad 1910

1910 Pfanstiehl Electric Laboratory, makers of magnetos and located at 121 State Street in Chicago.

graham differential ad 1910

1910 for the Graham Differential Gear Company, located at 2125 Michigan in Chicago.

class journal ad 1 1910

1910 ad for The Class Journal, located at 1200 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

motor age ad 1910

1910 ad for Motor Age, located at 1200 Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Promoting their "Automobile Driving Self-taught" book.

stewartclark ad 1910

1910 ad for Stewart & Clark Manufacturing Company located at 1850 Diversey in Chicago. They made speedometers.

stomberg ad 1910

1910 ad for the Stromberg Motor Devices Company, whose main office and factory was located at 64-68 East 64th Street in Chicago, were they manufactured carburetors.

hoffecker ad 1910

1910 ad for the Hartford Suspension Company of Jersey City. They made the Truffault-Hartford Shock Absorber and had their Chicago office at 1458 Michigan Avenue.

e edelmann ad 1910

1910 ad for E. Edelmann & Company, makers of the Edelman Tire Gauge and located at 47 West Kinzie Street in Chicago.

standard auto ad 1910

1910 ad for the Standard Automobile Supply Company, located at 1428 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

skinner ad 1910

1910 ad for Skinner & Skinner, makers of the Skinner Tire Pump, located at 1714 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

auto blue book ad 1910

1910 ad for the Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, located at 1200 Michigan Avenue in Chicago

richard brasier ad 06

1906 Richard-Brasier ad for Agents E.B. Gallaher located on 14th and Michigan.

railway appliances 2

1906 Railway Appliances Company ad, located at 84 VanBUren Street in Chicago.

railway appliances 1

1906 Railway Appliances Company ad, located at 84 VanBUren Street in Chicago.

class journal ad 1910

1910 ad for The Class Journal, located at 1200 Michigan Avenue in Chicago.


1906 Firestone ad, located at 550 Wabash Avenue in Chicago.

hine watt

1906 ad for the Columbia Generator and Mirror Lamp by the Hine-Watt Manufacturing Company located at 58-60 Wabash in Chicago.

pm hotchkin ad 06

1906 P.M. Hotchkin ad, located at 4021 Lake Avenue in Chicago.

london auto supply 06

1906 London Auto Supply Company ad, located at 1231 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

cullman wheel 06

1906 Cullman Wheel Company ad, located at 1027 Dunning in Chicago.

hine watt 06

1906 Hine-Watt Manufacturing Company ad located at 60 Wabash Avenue in Chicago.

interstate ironsteel ad 21

1921 Interstate Iron & Steel Company ad, located at 104 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

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