Enoch: North Main Street car dealers

Published 3:02 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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By Harry Enoch

Contributing Writer

In 1909 Joseph R. Martin, who operated the Martin Coal and Supply Company at 33 East Broadway, expanded his operations, leasing a building at 7–9 North Main Street (until recently the home of D & S Hardware). Martin sold a wide variety of products in addition to coal: agricultural implements, field seed, fertilizer, animal feed, concrete, lime, sand, brick, salt, paint, roofing, and much more.

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A year later Martin sold a half interest in the business to his brothers-in-law, John M. Hodgkin and William H. Hodgkin. In 1912 Martin & Hodgkin advertised Studebaker farm wagons for sale. By 1913 they were selling Studebaker cars, and the following year added Model T Fords to their automobile lineup.

According to newspaper accounts in 1914, their sales of Fords and Overlands were brisk, with six in April and four in June. One year later, Martin & Hodgkin sold their auto dealership to John S. Lowry. Lowry had operated garages in several locations as the Clark County Motor Car Company. In 1919 he paid $15,000 for the property which included the present city parking lot and the hardware store parking lot. Here Lowry erected a massive garage building that extended from Main Street all the way to the alley. He sold Fords and advertised “the best equipped shop in the country for Ford repair work,” reasonably priced and guaranteed.

In 1920 and ’21 Tom Swope Motors sold used cars out of the garage. In 1923 Swope moved his business to 8 South Highland Street.

Arthur Reeves took over the garage in 1923 and moved his business from Flanagan Street to the North Main location. The Reeves Auto Company promoted sales of Durant Star Cars, which were manufactured in New Jersey from 1922 to 1927.

In 1927 Reeves Auto sold out to two young Bush brothers, Clyde V., 21, and Lindsey P. Bush, 22. They leased Lowry’s huge garage and had their office and showroom at 21 North Main, which is still standing. Theirs would be the longest running car dealership in this location.

As a publicity stunt, the company arranged for “Dare-Devil” Jack Derby to undertake a 100-hour endurance drive in a six-cylinder Durant coupe to begin and end at the Bush Brothers. Police chief Sid Bush handcuffed Derby to the steering wheel to make sure he did not leave the car. He was accompanied by a trained nurse and had a supply of gas, oil and water on board. Guess the nurse was trained to add these when needed.

After Durant Motors went out of business, the Bush Brothers became a Dodge-Plymouth agency. They installed two pumps in front of the garage selling Ashland Oil gasoline. In 1952 Clyde Bush became a member of the Dodge “400 Club” by virtue of having sold 400 Dodge cars and trucks. This élite club honored the top salesmen across the nation. (Clyde was still selling cars when he died in 1967.)

The Bush Brothers remained in business until 1952, when they sold out to Foster William “Bill” Swope. Swope was an Ohio native who moved to Winchester to open his first auto dealership.

The announcement for F. W. Swope Motor Company, as successors to the Bush Brothers, stated that Clyde and Lindsey Bush would remain associated with the business.

By that time, however, S. H. Kress & Company had purchased the old Lowry property and announced plans to move from the McEldowney Building to a new building on North Main where the garage stood. Noted Winchester photographer, William B. Ogden, hurried to North Main to photograph the buildings before they came down. Then, after all the whoop-de-do, Kress decided to remain on Cleveland Avenue. The garage was finally razed for parking lots in 1960.

After evacuating the garage on North Main, Swope Motor opened a new dealership at 514 West Lexington Avenue. This was just east of the C&O Railroad crossing, on the present site of Sam’s Carpet.


In 1961 Bill Swope moved to Hardin County where he opened a new dealership. Bill and his brother Sam founded the Swope Family of Dealerships with locations in Elizabethtown, Radcliff and Louisville. Second and third generation Swopes are still operating these dealerships today.