The building built for a tire shop

The building located at 308 River St. was constructed in 1926 for the purpose of a tire shop.

As the 1910s grew into the 1920s, more and more people began owning automobiles which eventually led to various offshoot businesses such as filling stations, repair garages and tire shops. To this end, one of the more unique buildings constructed on River Street is a small structure on the north side of the street built for the purpose of a tire shop.

By early the 1920s, the primary tire shop in Manistee was the Hill Tire & Accessories Co., originally owned and operated by Harold Hill and James Lahr (and later Harold’s brother, Jesse). The business was located inside a building formerly situated at the foot of Pine Street on River Street. A little later on, the brothers (with partner Frank Wexstaff) organized the Hill Rubber Company and for a period of time manufactured tires in Manistee beginning in January of 1923.

Over the next few years, with business continuing to grow, the Hills decided to open up another tire shop and construct a new building on River Street located several blocks down from their from their current store. This new tire shop would be located at the foot of Division Street and essentially provide the brothers Hill two prime locations. However, before this could happen the old Joseph Broadhead saw shop would have to be demolished. An article published on Feb. 2, 1926, describes the new plans for the property:

“…the deal involves the Joseph Broadhead saw shop property on River Street, foot of Division Street. This site was purchased by the Hill Tire & Accessories Company of this city, now located at the foot of Pine Street on River.

“Harold Hill of the Hill Company stated today that they hope to have a modern building with all sorts of services for the motorist on their new property in time for next summer’s business. The building will be next to the Winkler Block, where the driveway now goes toward the river, and will have frontage on Division Street as well as River, for Division goes directly north to the river, though it has never opened, heretofore. The property has more than 30 feet on River Street and widens out to 110 feet along the Manistee River.

“The business of the local tire shop has so expanded that its present location at Pine and River is no longer large enough. The old shop, however, will be maintained for the service of customers at the west end of the city and travelers who stop at Hotel Chippewa.”

One of the primary reasons for constructing a new building and opening up a business at this specific spot was that it would be located along the route of US-31. A brief sentence in the aforementioned article explains:

“With the new concrete U.S. Highway 31 running almost straight into the proposed shop, it should draw a good deal of business off the new highway next summer.”

Construction of the new building commenced roughly six weeks later with well-known local contractor, Charles Anderson tearing down the old saw shop and constructing the new building. The proposed structure was described in the Manistee News Advocate on March 19, 1926:

“The new building to rise on the lot will be of ultra-modern design, with architecture that is different and striking when compared to the ordinary shop front. It will be designed to attract the thousands of people who will pass it daily on M-11 next summer, to sell itself to traffic. The walls will be of glazed tile.

“The entire construction will be 107 feet long with the building about 90 feet long and set back from the walk so that the other 17 feet will be outside working space to give customers the quickest possible service directly in front of the building. The office, with a front entrance and two large show windows, will be on the west side, while a driveway into the interior storage space will be provided to the east.

“Within on the main floor will be a ladies’ restroom, office, vulcanizing room, battery room and storage space. Cars needing service in bad weather, in winter or a job that can’t be handled on the space in front will be driven in and given attention. The basement will also be equipped for a workshop when needed and used as storage space, with a driveway into it on the east side, north end.

“The building, equipped in the same modern manner as is the present Hill shot at River and Oak, will be one of the most complete tire service depots in western Michigan and one of the finest looking.”

By the middle of July of 1926, the new Hills Tire & Accessories shop at 308 River St. was open for business. For several years the Hills sold tires and service automobile from the location however records show that a portion of the building located close to the river channel was used for servicing motor boats.

A short time later, the business located on the other end of River Street ceased operation and by the mid-1930s, the brothers began selling Ford automobiles at 308 River St. with the business renamed, Hill Motor Sales.

In the late 1930s, the Hill brothers went out of business and after standing vacant for a short time, the building was occupied by Lawrence Mackin Motor Sales and the Manistee Body Shop who are listed in Polk’s City Directory at the address. In 1957, Hokanson Camera Supplies began occupying the building and since that time the business has occupied all or a portion of the unique building on River Street that was built for a tire shop.

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Posted by Mark Fedder

Mark Fedder is the executive director of the Manistee County Historical Musuem. He can be reached at (231) 723-5531 ormanisteemuseum@yahoo.com.

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