I noticed this wonderful little building the first time I ever laid eyes on North Central. At the time it was a restaurant supply company, with chairs and tables in the window for sale. Of course, I thought “That would make a great restaurant or café.”
So what was this building originally? Not surprisingly I found out that it was an automobile dealership. It makes sense. From the large showroom windows, to the 1920s winged emblem above the door, to the loading dock on the Ingalls Avenue side, an automobile dealership is the logical answer.
Because I limit my search to what I can find out on line, I was not able to find the exact year it was built, but it’s a great building. It’s got varied and intricate brickwork, and that fine pressed metal ornament, most of which is in very good shape.
It also turns out that this part of North Central was a major portion of Troy’s “Automobile Row.” It seems that throughout the early 1930s through the 1970s, and even still today, this area, roughly from about Jay Street to Ingalls Avenue was full of automobile related businesses. Although the names have changed, many of the automobile businesses are still there.
Take Bob Karl’s Sales and Services, at 2791 6th Avenue. Back in 1932, it was the site of Troy Buick, Inc., which sold used cars. Gendron’s Truck Center, across the street at 2702 6th Avenue, was Knowles Pontiac in the 1960s and ‘70s. The lot next door once was home to Whitbeck Motors, Troy’s “Oldest, Largest, and Only DeSoto –Plymouth dealer.” The ad is from 1959.
Of course, there were also service stations at Ingalls and River, as well as other locations in the area. But the jewel in the crown is this building, at 3001 6th Avenue – now the best of the remaining automobile mobile buildings left in this part of North Central.
From all indications, the building was built for Wright Motor Sales. They occupied the building from at least 1932 until 1941. The company started in nearby Delmar, and first established itself further down the street, at 3025 6th Avenue, which today is the back entrance to Quality Glass. They sold used Chryslers and Plymouths.
In May of 1938, Arba R. Wright, one of the partners in the firm, died of a heart attack while selling a car. He had been demonstrating it to a potential client on a road in Brunswick when he stopped the car, got out, and collapsed. Mr. Wright was only 57 years old. They continued on, and got the nod to become Nash dealers in 1940. The dealership remained with the partners under the Wright name until 1941.
Later, in August of 1945, Whitbeck Motors was founded by William J. Whitbeck. He soon occupied this prime corner location. He began selling DeSotos and Plymouths, and was soon the area’s best DeSoto dealership. He later added Chryslers. Customers were familiar with the location as those three makes of cars had always been here, no matter the company name.
Early in their history, Whitbeck struggled to survive, as auto parts were very hard to come by, due to war and post war rationing. But by 1966, they had 25 employees and had expanded to that large corner of Middleburg and 6th Avenue, where they had one of the city’s largest car lots, holding over a hundred vehicles. They called the new lot “Whitbeck’s Autorama.”
In 1968 they were celebrated in the Troy Record as the second oldest remaining auto-dealership in Troy. Ads show up for Whitbeck’s until the late 1960s. Today, this space is taken up by a large fuel company. Whitbeck’s was the last auto dealership to occupy 3001 6th Avenue.
For the next 50 years, all kinds of other businesses operated out of this building. By now, many car dealerships had gone the way of Whitbeck’s – large open lots, or large showroom buildings. Small boutique showrooms like 3001 6th Avenue no longer made sense for auto dealerships.
It became an oil heating equipment showroom for a while. It was also an outpost of Catholic Charities, the Ron Levesque Sign Studio, and finally, Restaurant Equipment Liquidators, until about 2 years ago, then empty. Rumors over the last couple of years said it was going to be a corner grocery store. That didn’t pan out, and now For Sale signs adorn it once again.
I hope this little gem of a building is put to good use, with a business that can serve the whole community and help jumpstart this important corner of North Central.