Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
From Horses to Cars: Early Autos, Service and Parts
By 1925, when Theophil Aprill joined with Albert Larmee to found Ann Arbor Exide Battery Service, this neighborhood was already a center for automobile sales, garages, parts, and service—much of it owned and staffed by German Americans. It was a natural transformation from carriage works, blacksmiths, and liveries.
The first auto was offered in 1900 at Staebler's bicycle store across West Washington from here. By 1925 you could buy a Dodge at Alber's—a former livery at 206 West Huron—or, within a block, a Pontiac, Maxwell, Chrysler, Hudson, Essex, Reo, Oakland, or Franklin. Trucks, as well as cars, were sold at Ann Arbor Buick on Ashley and Huron.
Between 1916 and 1925, Motor Products Corp. manufactured windshields in both the former Allmendinger Organ Works and the former Krause Tannery. King-Seeley took over the tannery in 1925 to produce the nation's first dash-mounted gas gauges. American Broach, manufacturing auto-machining parts, replaced Schlemmer's Fluff Rug factory next to the railroad on West Huron.
Top image caption:
A & L Battery Service, 106 South First Street,
Top image inset caption:
Theopil Aprill (second from right) and Albert Larmee (left) stand beside recharging batteries in their South First shop. The business gradually moved to 529 South Main. Under Theophil's son Ted, A&L became one of the largest auto parts distributors in southeast Michigan.
Bottom left image caption:
On West Washington and South First, Bethlehem, the oldest German chuch in town, was first converted to a stable and then a garage for the horses, wagons, and delivery trucks of Mack & Co. department store. The site later became part of Brown's Chevrolet dealership.
Bottom right images caption:
In 1918 the town's first off-street gas station opened, replacing curbside pumps like the one in back of Fred Staebler's grocery store on South Ashley, a few feet left of here. Ten years later there were 35 gas stations in Ann Arbor, 29 of them downtown, including Hunter's (right) at West Huron and North First.
City officials ordered horse hitching posts removed from the Main Street business district in 1922 and the last horse drawn cab quit in 1924. Autos now dominated the roads.
Sponsored by the Theophil Aprill family
Photos courtesy of Tom Aprill, Nancy Hunter Crosby, and the Bentley Historical Library
Erected by Ann Arbor Historical Foundation.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Industry & Commerce. A significant historical year for this entry is 1925.
Location. 42° 16.85′ N, 83° 44.98′ W. Marker is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in Washtenaw County. Marker is on South Ashley Street north of West Washington Street, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 117 South Ashley Street, Ann Arbor MI 48104, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Three Generations of Metzgers on Washington Street (here, next to this marker); The Staeblers and the Germania/American Hotel (within shouting distance of this marker); Germans on Ashley Street (within shouting distance of this marker); Eating and Drinking in Ann Arbor (within shouting distance of this marker); Dry Goods (within shouting distance of this marker); Hardware (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); From Interurbans to Buses (about 300 feet away); Ann Arbor's New "Streamlined" Bus Depot (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ann Arbor.
Credits. This page was last revised on September 20, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 20, 2020, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. This page has been viewed 66 times since then and 14 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on September 20, 2020, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.