As always, click the picture for larger image…
So there was a crane over there last week and suddenly everybody wants to know what is going on. Well, it looks as if somebody is getting a new roof…which is not a bad idea since the old roof was about to celebrate its 98th birthday.
But the story of this building is intertwined with the one that backs up to it…they were built at slightly different times, but they shared a common purpose for over 70 years. Let’s take a look at the older building first.
610-612 (we’re using the original street numbers here) North Liberty Street was built in 1916 by the Auto Service Company, but was almost immediately taken over by the Miller Motor Company (brothers Gernie G., Grady W. and Roland H. Miller)…rated as “Fire Proof” construction…reinforced concrete frame, tile curtain walls, reinforced concrete floors and ceilings.
In the summer of 1918, the Miller Motor Company went into receivership. The building was acquired by the Twin City Motor Company. In May, 1919, they built an extension of the building through the block, which became 609-611 North Trade Street. It had a concrete floor, wood truss roof and tile curtain walls.
They then leased the building to the Auto Repair Company (H.W. Masten, L. H. Swann), auto dealers and repairers and storage, battery station and garage.
The original building had had its sales area on the first floor and its repair facilities upstairs, which involved raising the autos to the second floor, a fairly common but expensive arrangement at the time. The new addition became the repair facility, thus eliminating the unnecessary work of raising and lowering vehicles.
In the 1920s, the building changed hands again and was occupied by Standard Motor Sales, which operated there for about a decade. In the late 1930s, it was taken over by the national chain Western Auto, which would remain in business there for five decades until about 1990.
After Western Auto closed, the older building hosted a community service operation for a few years. Now it is the home of Top Tier Crossfit, the home church of personal improvement. The Trade Street side remained vacant until now. As announced last year, Sweet Potatoes, operated by partners Stephanie Tyson and Vivian Joiner, will be reopening there soon, with a new roof, a lot more space, a patio dining area and a wonderful surprise, Miss Ora’s Fried Chicken, a separate takeout specializing in pan fried chicken, different from the current Sweet Potatoes buttermilk chicken menu offering, served with sweet potato biscuits, slaw and potato salad . Be prepared to stand in line.
But this is not the end of the story. As always, when we begin digging into anything, we find an amazing story that no one ever heard of. Coming next, the tale of Gernie Miller’s run for national glory in 1911, six years before he and his brothers opened their auto business at 610 North Liberty Street.