Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Former Simons Motor Sales Co.
Address: 1590 Bedford Avenue
Cross Streets: Union and President Streets
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: 1926
Architectural Style: Vaguely Colonial Revival with Medieval details
Landmarked: No, although an Automobile Row historic district would be great.
The story: It must have been quite exciting to have been around at the dawn of the automobile age. Like today’s personal computer and cell phone age, as soon as a couple of pioneers established the basics of the product, dozens of other people immediately saw ways to improve it, and came up with their own makes and models. Today, there are only a few American car companies still in existence, but back in the first half of the 20th century, there were dozens.
Most are unfamiliar, except to auto aficionados, but some names that are still familiar, like Ford, Chrysler and Dodge, belonged to real people back then – automobile manufacturers who were trying to get their cars produced and distributed across the country. Not everyone can invent, but some people are born salesmen, and these men helped make the automobile industry grow. Guy O. Simons was one of the great automobile salesmen, and this building was at the heart of his empire.
Guy O. Simons hailed from the Midwest, where the automobile was born and perfected. He began selling them as early as 1900, when owning an automobile was only for the wealthy. He began in Ohio, and by 1906 was the sales manager at the Stoddard-Dayton Company. By 1910, he had started the Motor Car Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis, manufacturers of the Pathfinder automobile. He was vice-president and general manager of that company for four years. After that, he resigned and founded the Simons Sales Company, out of Saginaw, Michigan. He sold cars made by several companies, including Willys-Overland.
Simons Sales grew so fast that in three years he had relocated to Detroit at the invitation of the manufacturers, and was asked to take over distribution for the entire state of Michigan. Walter Chrysler took notice of him, and hired Simons to move to NY, and be in charge of sales for all of the Chrysler and Maxwell automobile dealerships in Brooklyn and Long Island.
Guy Simons moved to NY in 1924, and proceeded to build up the Chrysler name. Most of the automobile companies, twenty or more of them, at that point, all had showrooms or sales representatives on Bedford Avenue, nicknamed Automobile Row. The first Simons Motor Sales building was a showroom at 1425 Bedford Avenue, at Prospect Place. A week after moving in, Simons knew the building was too small, and began looking to expand. Only two years later he had eleven buildings in Brooklyn alone, and over 200 employees. He was pulling in over $8 million a year in sales, and was the highest grossing Chrysler dealer in the country.
That same year, 1926, Simons opened this building. It was not a showroom, but a service center, replacing a smaller service center he owned on Empire Boulevard. This new service center had state of the art facilities for the repair and servicing of automobiles, as well as some room for inventory storage. It also held the corporate offices, parts, and new car delivery departments. It was designed by an unnamed architect to allow for new floors to be added, if needed. Simons took out a full page ad in the Eagle on Sunday, September 12, 1926 to announce the grand opening. The building does do a good job of complementing the armory directly across the street, design-wise. Nice job, whoever you were.
In 1927, Simons consolidated with another dealer, Colt, Stewart & Foy, and the company was now known as the Simons Stewart Co. In addition to being Chrysler dealers, they now also had used car lots all over Brooklyn and Long Island. In 1929, they were listed as Simons Stewart & Foy, and in 1931, back to Simons Stewart. From what I can gather, they stayed on Bedford Avenue until the mid-1930s. Later ads for automobiles at this address in the 1940s, have a new company here; Ebbets Field Auto Sales.
Guy O. Simons remained an automobile dealer for over fifty years. His company may have left Bedford Avenue, but only to relocate in new Automobile Rows elsewhere in Brooklyn and on the Island. He finally retired in 1951, and moved to Darien, Connecticut. He died there in 1962, at the age of 80.
After subsequent years as a dealership and repair shop for many different owners, the building today seems to be occupied by a company called Service Delivery Maintenance. Their logo shows a school bus and railroad tracks, so I will hazard a guess that they do repairs on the same. It’s a great building, and one of the few remaining large Automobile Row buildings left.
Please join me on a walking tour of Automobile Row this Sunday at 11 am. Tickets are still available from the Municipal Arts Society’s website. See this great building in person!
(Photograph: Google Maps)