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Nearly century-old Ford dealership razed for apartment block development

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Image courtesy Google Street View.

It first opened as yet another garage that sold Model Ts, one of probably tens of thousands like it across the country, and for almost 100 years, the little dealership in Beverly, Massachusetts — under a handful of different names — continued selling Fords. Then, earlier this month, a year short of its centennial mark and a year after it was declared historically significant, the building fell to the wrecking ball to accommodate a pair of apartment towers.

According to reports in the Salem News, development company Beverly Crossing — which bought the building for $3.3 million in August 2015 — has torn down the former Kelly Ford dealership building on Rantoul Street prior to building a 98-unit five-story apartment building on the site and a 28-unit five-story building on an adjacent lot where the dealership parked its cars. The project is one of several apartment building developments along Rantoul stemming from downtown development surrounding the local MBTA commuter rail station.

From the moment Kelly Ford bought the dealership from former Thomas Ford owner Steve Leary in July 2015, Kelly Ford President Brian Kelly said he never intended to stay in the building. Kelly Ford has since relocated to Cabot Street, further away from Beverly’s downtown. Thomas Ford called the building home starting in 1969; Toby Ford had previously operated out of the building starting in 1965.

According to a Siemasko + Verbridge report prepared for the Beverly Historic District Commission last spring, the owners of Harper Garage built the building as early as 1919 on land formerly occupied by a mid-19th-century house built by shipping magnate Frederick Choate. Harper Garage operated out of the building until at least the 1940s, after which a renovation removed much of the original detail, according to the report.

Image via historic district commission report.

Despite the loss of detail, City Councilor Estelle Rand told the historic district commission that the building “still represents an important connection to the city’s history as a location for the selling and manufacturing of automobiles,” according to the Salem News.

The historic district commission did vote to grant the building historically significant status, but that status only delayed demolition of the building for a year. The commission reportedly deadlocked on a vote to delay demolition any longer.

Construction of the apartments is expected to last 14 to 16 months. Unlike a similar apartment construction project atop a former Studebaker dealership in Phoenix, which incorporated parts of the dealership into the new building, nothing will remain of the former Harper/Toby/Thomas/Kelly Ford building.

(h/t to diskojoe for the story tip.)