First Ford dealership in Cleveland named to the National Register

First Ford dealership in Cleveland named to the National Register

August 29th, 2014 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

A two-story brick building in Cleveland, Tenn., is being added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

A building that held the first Ford Motor Co. dealership in Cleveland, Tenn., and one of the earliest such businesses in the state, has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The structure, located in downtown Cleveland at 125 Inman St., housed the long-running C.C. Card Auto Co., said Sybil Argintar, owner of Southeastern Preservation Services, which helped prepare the nomination to the National Register.

"That made it pretty important," she said. "It had a lot of community impact in town."

According to the registration form, the auto company played a major role in Cleveland's commercial development.

The company began operating on Nov. 22, 1911, first selling Buicks and later that year obtaining a Ford franchise to sell the Model T.

Cars would arrive by the nearby railroad line, often unassembled. The auto company had its own assembly line to put them together. In 1911, Card sold just five cars. But the number of sales grew to 13 in 1912, 30 in 1913 and 51 in 1914.

The original building was located on a different site, at Church and First streets. This structure burned and then Card bought the Inman Street property from the trustees of the First Baptist Church of Cleveland.

The new building was constructed to Ford Motor standards, the registration form said, including a large showroom with refined architectural detailing. These included pressed tin ceilings, terrazzo floors, and a wide open space for customers to look at cars.

The building was structured to allow for cars on an upper level, and a ramp was built at the rear to permit second-floor access.

By 1916, sales had grown to 102 cars. In 1919, 60 percent of all Bradley County vehicles purchased were Fords from the C.C. Card dealership, and sales reached over 3,000 cars in 1929. In 1930, Card purchased an adjoining site and built a new service garage that faced First Street.

However, moving to more recent times, downtown saw an economic downturn and more businesses moved out of the city's core. The company left its Inman Street location and moved to South Lee Highway.

Last year, preservation tax credits were utilized to rehabilitate the C.C. Card Building.

Doug Caywood, the architect of record for the renovation, said the building has been turned into 14 loft apartments and commercial space on the lower level. Caywood said the apartments are occupied and the Momentum Academy of Dance is located on the ground level along with a restaurant.

He said the Lillios family owns the building, which is one of about 18 structures in Bradley County on the National Register.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.