Reminisce: Lima’s Cadillac connection since 1904


By Greg Hoersten - For The Lima News



This 1958 photograph from the Lima Citizen shows the interior of Lima Cadillac, including co-owners Carl A. Bowdle, far left, and Bob O. Bowdle, far right.

This 1958 photograph from the Lima Citizen shows the interior of Lima Cadillac, including co-owners Carl A. Bowdle, far left, and Bob O. Bowdle, far right.


SOURCE

This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.

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See past Reminisce stories at limaohio.com/tag/reminisce

In a Saturday edition of the Lima Times-Democrat in 1904, at the bottom of a back page dominated by an ad for Newbro’s Herpicide hair dressing for women (“the original remedy that kills the ‘dandruff germ’”) was what amounted to the birth announcement of a Lima business that lives on more than 117 years later.

“H.A. Mack, formerly manager of the Haynes-Apperson branch store at Chicago, has opened up a salesroom and repair shop at 125 E. Market St. (today the site of the Lima Police Department), formerly occupied by W.E. Rudy,” the Lima Times-Democrat reported April 23, 1904. “He will carry in stock the Haynes-Apperson, Cadillac and Oldsmobile. Mr. Mack has a wide experience in the automobile business and no doubt will do a good business here in the city.”

Experience in the automobile industry was a relative thing in 1904. The Haynes-Apperson, one of the first gasoline-powered cars in the U.S., was only about a decade old, and it had been only six years since Rudy, who owned a bicycle shop, became Lima’s first auto owner, shelling out $780 for a steam-powered Locomobile. He also is credited with being Lima’s first automobile dealer.

“The machine was a great curiosity, and with it Mr. Rudy gave many exhibitions at neighboring fairs, generally receiving ten dollars for driving it around the track a few times,” Ezekiel Owen, president of the Allen County Historical Society, wrote in December 1926. Rudy not only drove a Locomobile — humorously referred to as a “tea kettle,” according to Owen — he also sold them out of his bicycle shop. By 1902, Rudy was offering one-hour rides in the car to anyone who purchased a “wheel” (bicycle) at his East Market Street shop.

Henry A. Mack was not far behind Rudy. On June 6, 1910, Mack signed an agreement with Cadillac allowing him to sell Cadillac automobiles and replacement parts in nine northwest Ohio counties. The agreement required Mack to “faithfully advertise Cadillac automobiles and promote the sales thereof; to keep in stock and in good order at least one automobile” for demonstration purposes and also to keep on hand “a stock of automobile parts made by the manufacturer, the list price of which shall aggregate at least $1,000.00.”

Mack named his new business the Lima Cadillac Co.

Shortly after opening his garage in Rudy’s old bicycle shop in 1904, Mack moved it to 206-208 E. Market St. and then, around 1908, into a three-story building he had built at 124-126 W. Market St. (today the site of the city parking garage). This building had a turntable and elevator to lift cars to the repair facilities on the upper floors, according to a February 1992 story in The Lima News. The front part of the building housed the Cadillac Hotel, which catered to vaudeville and theater people, and later the Mack Camera store.

Mack announced intentions to move again in the spring of 1916 with the purchase of a lot just east of the Elks’ Home on West North Street.

“It is the intention of Mack to erect a modern fire-proof garage on the lot. … One of the innovations of the structure when completed will be the arrangement making it unnecessary to use an elevator in handling automobiles on the different floors of the building,” the Times-Democrat reported March 14, 1916, explaining that to do this “a driveway will be made directly into the basement of the garage” where all repair work would be done. “When complete the owner states that it will be the finest garage in this part of the country,” the newspaper wrote.

In 1917, Mack sold half of his auto business to Otto Plummer and, the following year, sold the remainder to Carl Bowdle, who would add Dodge and LaSalle to the dealership’s list of brands. Bowdle eventually bought out Plummer.

In April 1919, less than three years after Lima Cadillac moved into its new home at 130 W. North St. (today the home of the Lima/Allen County Regional Planning Commission), Mack sold the building to the Elks’ Home, which was looking to expand. However, it would be several years before the dealership moved, and, when it did, it didn’t move far.

“The formal opening Thursday of the new home of the Lima Cadillac Co., at 125-129 W. North St., will mark a distinct achievement in the commercial world of Lima,” The Lima News announced Aug. 22, 1928. After 24 years in business, the newspaper added, the dealership “will now occupy four entire floors in a new super-modern building, with 54,000 square feet of floor space.”

About the same time, the dealership, which had dropped the Dodge brand, added Oldsmobile to its line.

“All garage employees are uniformed,” the News noted, “and courtesy to the public at all times is one of the employment qualifications.”

In March 1942, with the U.S. involved in World War II and the auto industry transitioning to defense work, Lima Cadillac could no longer afford the rent on the West North Street building, which was taken over by International Harvester Co. for storage, and Lima Cadillac again was on the move. An ad in the News on March 29, 1942, touted the firm’s “many used cars to choose from” at its new location on the southwest corner of West and Spring streets.

With World War II in the rear-view mirror after 1945 and the U.S. auto industry back to manufacturing cars, Lima Cadillac moved to a new building at 767 W. North St. next to the Frank Baker Bread Company on the southeast corner of West North and Baxter streets. Then, in June 1951, with both the bakery and Lima Cadillac needing more room, The Lima News reported that the dealer was building a “make-ready” plant across the street at 770 W. North St. to prepare cars for delivery to customers.

The showroom of the new building was occupied by the Indian Outdoor Equipment Co., but Bowdle told the News that his dealership would eventually move all its operations there. The new building had the same floor plan as the building next to the bakery, which eventually housed a bakery thrift store.

In May 1959, Carl Bowdle died, and his son Bob Bowdle, who had been active in the business for many years, became the dealer. Earlier that year, in a short-lived agreement, Lima Cadillac announced it would sell French-built Renault and Peugot cars at the dealership.

When Bob Bowdle died in 1976, the dealership was bought by his son-in-law, William Timmermeister, who had been with the company since 1965. In 1983, the company added the Pontiac franchise and changed its name to Lima Cadillac-Pontiac. Eight years later, in 1991, the company purchased the assets of Steve Myers Olds Nissan dealership, becoming Lima Cadillac Pontiac Oldsmobile Nissan Co. and moved to the site on Cable Road and Edgewood Drive, formerly occupied by Steve Myers.

In the years since the move to Cable Road, the dealership has added and lost vehicle lines, expanded and contracted. In the early 2000s, it was known as the Lima Auto Mall before changing its name to Lima Cadillac Chevrolet in December 2015.

This 1958 photograph from the Lima Citizen shows the interior of Lima Cadillac, including co-owners Carl A. Bowdle, far left, and Bob O. Bowdle, far right.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/12/web1_1958-interior.jpgThis 1958 photograph from the Lima Citizen shows the interior of Lima Cadillac, including co-owners Carl A. Bowdle, far left, and Bob O. Bowdle, far right.

By Greg Hoersten

For The Lima News

SOURCE

This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.

LEARN MORE

See past Reminisce stories at limaohio.com/tag/reminisce

Reach Greg Hoersten at info@limanews.com.

Reach Greg Hoersten at info@limanews.com.

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