From the Library Archives: History of the Ford Garage by Nancy Watts

The Ford garage at 519 W. Broadway (now Duane Sparks Chevrolet) was built in 1915-1916 “The phenomenal growth of Lewistown was matched by the growth of the automobile… E.R. Roehl, manager of the new Ford garage, began business in Lewistown in the fall of 1912, selling his first Fords from the railroad car in which they were shipped; and his business grew from the start. Eleven Fords were sold in 1912, 72 in 1913, 167 in 1914, 265 in 1915 and 576 by the Lewistown agents in 1916, an indication of the growth and prosperity of the community.” (Montana Historical and Architectural Inventory).

The original owner of the building was the Northwestern Building Company which was incorporated in 1915 by George M. Stone, David Hilger, Wilford J. Johnson, Bernard Stack and William H. Fergus.

“The contract for the excavation of the new garage which will be erected back of the Bright Hotel facing Broadway Street has been awarded to Stanton and Smith and the work will begin immediately. E. R. Roehl, agent for the Ford and the Overland cars in Lewistown, will occupy the new garage and expects to have the structure ready for occupancy by December 1. A very deep basement will be put in, and the building will consist of two floors. The structure will be 50 by 90 feet in size and modern in every detail.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” September 16, 1915). 

 “Bids for the new Ford garage were submitted Friday afternoon at the office of Wasmansdorff and Eastman and the contract let to the Thompson Construction company of Lehigh, Montana, its bid of $7775 being the lowest. The work will be commenced immediately and will be completed in 42 working days, about 7 weeks. Excavation for the building has already been completed.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” October 14, 1915).

“The formal opening of the new Ford garage on Broadway, between 5th and 6th Avenues, is to be celebrated by E. R. Roehl, Ford agent for Fergus and Meagher counties, with much éclat next Friday evening, January 7th. There will be a housewarming and dance with enjoyment assured for all who attend and who all will be welcome. The old-time dances, including the quadrilles, will be given the preference on the program with some of the new dances interpreted for the benefit of the younger element. The big hall 50 by 90 feet on the first floor and opening on the street will make a splendid dancing hall. The whole building will be steam heated and luncheon will be served during the evening.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” January 6, 1916).

“There was some blow out at the opening of the Ford garage Friday night, and it is safe to state that all the town was there. Had Henry Ford been accorded the privilege of seeing the mammoth ovation given the new home of his masterpiece, he would have been a bit appeased for his brief and bootless journey across the sea. The invitation extended by Mr. E. R. Roehl was so cordial and promising of an all-around good time that the crowd began together long before the orchestra tuned up, and by 10:00 o’clock every available inch of floor space was occupied. Mr. and Mrs. Roehl welcomed their guests at the door and the ladies were directed to a gallery above where they might leave their wraps.”

“The building was hung with bunting and American flags. The grand march signaled at 9:30, was headed by Mrs. Roehl and D. J. Hilger, and after that the program of dancing was carried out, with coffee and sandwiches as a crowning event. The program of dances opened with Ford’s Peace Overture and progressed with something like this: Sparkplug waltz, Carburetor quadrille; Shock absorber two-step; Gasoline waltz; Radiator two-step; Tin Lizzy Turkey trot;…(“Fergus County Democrat,” January 13, 1916).

“The Northwestern Building Company has let a contract to Stanton and Smith for a 50X100 feet extension of the Ford garage on Broadway, and excavation is now under way. Manager Roehl’s Ford business has grown so remarkably since the original garage was contracted that the extension comes as a demand of necessity. The extension designed by Wasmansdorff and Eastman with plate glass front on the street level, and entrance to both stories on Broadway. The main floor will be on an exact level with the floor of the present building, so planned as to conform to the grade of the street. The present building has 9000 square feet of storage space and the extension will add 18,000 more, making a total of 27,000 square feet for use. The entire building, when completed, will be substantial and spacious and will add much to the general appearance of the street.” (“Democrat News,” August 8, 1916).

The Ford garage at 519 W. Broadway was built in 1915-16 for the
Northwestern Building Company.

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