Address: 421 Monroe Avenue, Memphis
Architectural Style: Three-floor reinforced concrete auto showroom and storage facility
Original Function/Purpose: Commercial; automobile dealership
History: This building was built for the display, sale, service and storage of automobiles and still gives a feeling of early 20th century Memphis’ “Automobile Row” area. The Overland Automobile Company was established in 1903 by engineer Claude Cox but was later taken over and expanded by John North Willys. The company created the Memphis franchise in 1916 presided over by Thomas Henry Smart who had started as a mechanic at age 16. A trade magazine wrote about the new building (lower photo above), “The showroom, as usual, is in front of the building, while ample stock room is provided in the rear for a full line of Overland parts, etc. In the extreme rear is the service department.” A local biography said of him in 1920, “It took him three weeks to sell his first Overland car here. Since then he has sold approximately nine thousand, being second only to the Fords.” A major strike at Willys-Overland and the post-WWI recession caused problems, and Smart left the company. The building was leased to other auto dealers until 1935 when it became occupied for about 20 years by the Hemphill Diesel School, founded by Ralph Hemphill for training diesel mechanics. In 1962 it was sold to Guerrino Amagliani, founder in 1917 of the Memphis Motorcycle Co., who had one of the first Schwinn bicycle dealerships and also sold Whizzer motorbikes and Henderson and Indian brand motorcycles. “In 1992 . . . the Amagliani family was inducted into the Schwinn Hall of Fame in recognition of their many years of accomplishment, dedication, and service to Schwinn.” The family sold the building in 2015 and new owners plan to renovate and transform it into commercial and office space as part of the revitalization of the Edge District. One significant task will be restoring the many windows that have been filled in over the decades. Renovations began in the summer of 2022 with a planned completion date of June 2023.
City Council District: 6
Super District: 8
County Commission District: 8