Manweiler Chevrolet Dealership

Project: Manweiler Chevrolet Dealership in Hoisington, Kansas
Client: Gene and Paula Manweiler
Services by Spencer Preservation: Listing on the National Register of Historic Places and Application for Federal and State Historic Tax Credits
Investment: $500,000

The origins of Manweiler Chevrolet date to 1928 when Slade Chevrolet was founded.  F.B. Slade, great-grandfather of current owner Gene Manweiler, established the family business at 167 West 1st Street in downtown Hoisington in 1928.  

The business not only survived The Great Depression but outgrew its original location and relocated to 204 North Main Street in 1932.  Slade sold the business to his two son-in-laws, August Manweiler and Wayne Maupin in 1937 and the name of the business was changed to Manweiler-Maupin Chevrolet Co.  It was during WWII that the two partners decided to build a new facility, with the approval of Chevrolet Motor Division.  The existing dealership site at 271 S. Main was selected as the site for the new building.

In February 1944, August Manweiler and Wayne Maupin entered into an agreement with Jacob Manweiler (August’s father) to build “a garage in as short of time possible at the least cost possible.”  Plans and specifications were provided by Mann and Company, Architects and Engineers of Hutchinson.  Consistent with the auto industry nationwide at the time, the new dealership focused on service and was designed with two gas pumps on the corner of the site and the garage/auto shop comprised a majority of the new building.  An article and advertisement in the local paper on June 29, 1944 announced that Manweiler-Maupin Chevrolet would be moving to their new location at 271 S. Main in the next two days.

As WWII drew to a close, Manweiler-Maupin Chevrolet Co. prospered.  By 1947, the dealership expanded with the addition of a new service area off the north side of the original building and finishing of the offices on the 2nd floor at the rear of the showroom.  August Manweiler purchased Wayne Maupin’s interest in the business in 1953 and renamed the business Manweiler Chevrolet.  It has operated under this name since that time and will celebrate sixty years in 2013.  August’s son, Larry joined the staff in 1953.  Larry became the dealer operator in 1965 and his father August slowly retired from the business.  Gene Manweiler, Larry’s son joined the business in 1976.  The great-grandson of J.B. Slade who founded the company in 1928, Gene took over the family-owned business in 1998 and continues to own and operate the dealership today.      

Constructed in 1944, the Chevrolet dealership is a rare WWII example of a Streamlined Art Moderne building pre-dating the more common modern dealerships of the post-war era. 

The one-story blond brick building features a curved showroom with plate glass windows that accommodates a single display vehicle.  Horizontal banding extends around the showroom and service bay and a curved corner window features glass block.  Reflecting the Depression-era emphasis on auto service over sales, the 1944 dealership was built with Phillips 66 gas pumps and a garage/auto shop; the business offered complete automotive service.  The garage featured steel trusses and bar joists for the roof which is rare with war-time materials shortages but the oversized windows were multi-light wood units (since replaced), a departure from the typical multi-light steel windows common in dealerships of the 1930s.  A neon sign featuring Chevrolet’s famous “bowtie” insignia was installed shortly after the buildings’ construction and remains a trademark of the family dealership.  The building continues to function as the local Chevrolet dealership and is an excellent representative of a Streamline Art Moderne building, clearly reflecting its original design and function.

Following the 2009 U.S. government bailout of financially-struggling American auto-makers, General Motors restructured and changed business practices resulting in a lean, customer-driven corporate culture.  The restructuring included closure of hundreds of local dealerships when GM withdrew franchise agreements.  Manweiler Chevrolet survived the General Motors corporate cuts and multi-generation loyal customers remain a vital component of the business’s success and perseverance.  Local family-owned auto dealerships, particularly in small rural communities, are becoming rare in the landscape of today’s auto industry.  Manweiler Chevrolet signed a contract with the new retooled General Motors and began plans for improvements to their building and business.  Manweilers were granted some exemptions from General Motor’s design standards based on the historic-status of the building.  The rehabilitation project primarily upgraded the interior of the dealership and shop to meet GM dealership design standards.

Established in 1928 as Slade Chevrolet, the four-generation family business celebrated their 85th anniversary in 2013 with a re-dedication of their newly improved building.  This family-owned company is a prominent business in Hoisington and is proud of their historic WWII building.

Spencer Preservation listed the building on the National Register of Historic Places under the Roadside Kansas Multiple Property Submission as a representative of the Auto Showrooms and Dealerships property type and worked with the owners to achieve a successful rehabilitation project that was approved for federal and Kansas rehabilitation tax credits.    

Media & photos 

http://www.greatbendpost.com/2013/05/30/manweiler-chevrolet-to-host-grand-re-opening/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/heritagerenewal/sets/72157632372039964/ http://www.panoramio.com/photo/83970207

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