The Boulden Ford Building Hummed With Activity of Auto Trade For Most of the 20th Century

An early advertisement in the Cecil Democrat.

An early advertisement in the Cecil Democrat.

The appearance of the first “locomobile on Main Street in 1900 heralded the beginning of a new era, which would dramatically change Elkton, an old colonial town.  On a Friday in April at the top of a new century, “the sight of the strange machine proved too much for ‘Poor Excuse’ Dr. B. M. Wells’ horse, and a wild dash resulted.  Dr. Wells was also the Railway Express Agent in town and the animal was used to the routine of well-traveled route.

“Poor Excuse” wasn’t the only one appalled by the automobile.   The town council posted large signs on the outskirts of the municipality giving notice to automobilists not to run faster than eight miles per hour in 1911.

From its beginning, Elkton has depended on transportation to drive its development.  Its role as a place on one of the most important commercial corridors on the Eastern seaboard has continually shaped its development.  But, now the pattern of growth and change would accelerate because of cars and trucks.

As the auto industry was progressing through its tentative phase locally and nationally, Henry Ford organized the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, MI in 1903.  He began producing the Model T Ford car  in 1908, which initially sold for $850.  The windshield, top, and headlights were extras.

In 1911 the automobile was here to stay, the Cecil Democrat declared.  That same year Warren W. Boulden Sr. started an independent dealership, the Elkton garage.  He erected a roomy structure on Main Street at the foot of Bow St.  It offered a full line of automobile supplies and services and there were vehicles for hire.  Boulden had given this business a careful study and was a ”competent mechnician,” the Cecil Democrat reported.  In 1913, he signed an exclusive contract with Henry Ford, opening the first Ford dealership in the county.

Business was growing rapidly and sometime prior to the summer of 1915, Harry R. Boulden acquired a lot next to the Howard House on North Street.  As warm months got underway, newspapers reported that significant improvement was being made on North Street for Boulden had hired a contractor, William Stephens, to build a new garage.

Ground on the lot between the Howard House and Edward W. Taylor’s livery office was broken Monday, July 12.  The one and two-story brick building with concrete floor and a large arched entrance for vehicles contained a garage, sales room, and parts department for the agency on the first floor and five offices on the second floor.

With the roaring ‘20s underway, the Cecil Democrat reported tin 1924 hat the agency had the “finest garage building – fully 10,000 square feet given over for the storage of cars, repair department, Etc.”  Throughout most of the 20th century this fine old structure in the center of Elkton hummed with the activity of the trade, served as the headquarters for the growing family auto dealership.

By the end of the 1970s, Warren W. Boulden & Sons stopped using the structure for its business.  In June of 1986, the Mayor and Commissioners of Elkton acquired the space as its municipal building.  In October 1988 a new town hall was dedicated in the former automobile sales and service shop.  In 2001, the building was sold to the Cecil County Commissioners.

In time, the county built a new facility at the edge of town and in recent years the building has been on the market.  But this month the Cecil Whig reported that restauranteur Denis Minihane plans to open a brewpub in the vacant building.

The historic building at 107 North Street, a valuable cultural resource in the community, is a relic from the time the automobile was in its infancy.  Built just as Cecil roared into the age of modern transportation, it was designed to house a commercial car dealership and garage.

As the automobile age exploded and horses and carriages faded from the streets of the old colonial town, Warren W. Boulden & sons put more and more customers on wheels and the family business prospered.  It now appears that there will be once again another historic use for this interesting structure, which helps anchor the central business district and contributes significantly to the town’s cultural heritage.

A more detailed structural history was published on the Historical Society of Cecil County Website in 2006

Boulden Ford on North Street son after it opened.  Source;  Historical Society of Cecil County  http://www.cecilhistory.org/researchreports/boulden.pdf

Boulden Ford on North Street soon after it opened. Source; Historical Society of Cecil County http://www.cecilhistory.org/researchreports/boulden.pdf

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One response to “The Boulden Ford Building Hummed With Activity of Auto Trade For Most of the 20th Century

  1. The building Joseph’s Department Store in Havre de Grace is located, at one time was also a car showroom. May have been a Pontiac dealership.

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