I was recently reminiscing about my first trips to St. Louis back in the 1990's delivering windshields to auto dealerships all over the bi-state region.
I was trying to find photos of some of these new car dealerships from the past. Turns out, it's pretty hard to find online history and photos of long gone businesses. I was looking for pictures of Hanna Oldsmobile when I starting finding hints on other auto dealerships.
The best bet is looking through Globe Democrat and Post-Dispatch ads on microfiche.
But, when I was researching St. Louis firehouses, I came across a book that had great photos of the city throughout the years, mainly related to catastrophic fires.
It's called, St. Louis Fire Department: The First 150 Years of Service (1857-2007). It is a little hard to find, but can be referenced at the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center at 225 South Skinker Boulevard.
It had a photo of a Chevrolet dealer called Placke Chevrolet. The metal signs were awesome and caught my eye. The address struck me as well, that's where Don Brown Chevrolet is now "at the entrance to the Hill".
Turns out Placke is long gone and Don Brown is still alive and kicking, one of only four remaining new car dealerships in St. Louis, along with McMahon Ford, Ackerman Toyota and Mercedes-Benz of St. Louis.
Here are some photos of this beautiful building in it's Placke days:
Kingshighway used to be the mid-century automobile row, replacing the Midtown alley automobile row from years before. Today along Kingshighway, you'll see more fast food and used car lots vs. dealerships, but McMahon Ford still exists.
Point is, Kingshighway has been an auto-centric thoroughfare for years.
From Jim Merkel's book "Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis's South Side":
You could buy anything on South Kingshighway: Pontiac, Cadillac, Dodge, Lincoln, or Oldsmobile. In 1969, car dealers had twenty-one addresses from Southtown Famous north to Arsenal Street. They included such names as Vincel Pontiac, King Dodge, and Bender Best Lincoln Mercury. Add in McMahon Ford at Gravois Avenue and Chippewa Street and Placke Chevrolet and Christopher-Southwest Motor Sales Used Cars at Southwest Avenue and Kingshighway, and the number grew to an even two dozen. (Dave) Sinclair had three of those addresses on either side of Tholozan Avenue on the east side of Kingshighway. Dave Sinclair Ford Used Cars was on the north side of Tholozan, and Dave Sinclair Ford, Inc., and Dave Sinclair Ford Truck, Inc., were on the south side.
Of course suburban sprawl and mass exodus of people and businesses from St. Louis in the mid to late 20th Century meant many of these auto dealers would eventually move to the burbs. For instance Dave Sinclair is now in South County.
These former Sinclair Ford properties at Kingshighway and Tholozan are now home to Ackerman Toyota and a Starbucks.
In August, 2015 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Ackerman Toyota was planning an $18M move from Kingshighway to the notheast side of Hampton and I-44 where the former MSD building is located.