Retro Charlotte

Coddington, Buicks and WBT

C.C Coddington building, circa 1925.
C.C Coddington building, circa 1925. Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County

Some history about what we know as the Polk Building.

*Slideshow is at bottom of story*

The neoclassic style building at 500 West Trade Street opened in 1925 as the Coddington building. Local auto dealer C.C. Coddington had the building designed as headquarters for his Buick dealership. In fact, the building was sometimes referred to as a “garage” in the early days-- the parts department was on the second floor, cars were stored on the third and fourth floors. The showroom occupied the first floor where passersby could see new vehicles through display windows.

In the 1980s the building was renamed for James K. Polk and used for state offices. But after years of sitting empty the property is now described as “decrepit” and will be torn down to make way for an apartment building. Local attorney and historian David Erdman suggests the granite facade be incorporated into the new structure but we’ll have to wait and see about that. (The slideshow includes photos of the beautiful ironwork still on the building.)

I hope you enjoy the detailed Observer story below, published as the Coddington building opened to the public in 1925.

Did you know? The Coddington was an early home to WBT radio and the story goes that the station’s call letters stood for “Watch Buick Travel.”

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August 2, 1925 - The Charlotte Observer

New Buick Building Here Is Among Finest Of The Section

Investment Of $750,000 Involved In C.C. Coddington, Inc., At Trade And Graham Streets -- Six Floors Contain 250,000 Square Feet Of Space -- Structure Complete In Detail From Showroom To Test Space On Roof -- Distributor Of Buicks For The Carolinas

Rated as the largest building devoted to the merchandising and service of a single product in the south and among the handsomest garages of this section of the country, the new home of C.C. Coddington, Inc., distributor for North and South Carolina of the Buick automobile, was opened to the public yesterday.

The property involves an investment of $750,000, including the site, building and equipment. The building is of massive proportions with great attention given to details.

Albert Kahn, Inc., of Detroit, perhaps the leading architect of America, designed the structure and supervised its erection. The firm has had extensive experience in the building of large plants for automobile companies and H.F. Reeves of Detroit, the architectural superintendent on the job, is of the opinion that the Charlotte garage is as well constructed as any building his firm has planned. The Realty Construction Company of Flint, Mich., built the big house.

SIX FLOORS

The plant comprises five covered floors and the roof, which is finished for use by the corporation. There are 125,000 square feet of floor space available for use.

The lot fronting on West Trade, West Fifth and North Graham streets was purchased from the Osborne estate. It fronts about 200 feet along Trade and Fifth streets and extends along Graham street 385 feet. The new garage occupies the northwest corner of Trade and Graham streets.

The structure is of reinforced concrete, the exterior being of granite and Bedford stone with tan brick paneling.

FIRST FLOOR

The visitor to the place is at once impressed with the roominess and finish of the showroom at the front of the ground floor. It is 100 by 60 feet, the paneling being of gumwood and the ornamental ceiling painted white. Columns supporting the second floor are of clair tavernelle marble with verde antique bases. Pink Tennessee marble is used for the flooring and for the staircase leading to the second floor. Rest rooms and a passenger elevator complete the first floor front.

Wide doors at the rear of the storeroom lead to the big retail service department in the rear.

SECOND FLOOR

The front portion of the second floor is devoted to the executive offices. There are seven of these comfortable, well lighted and ventilated rooms. The walls are painted an easy tan, the ceilings being white. The woodwork is in oak finish while the furniture is of walnut. The comfortable chairs are upholstered in blue leather. The floors are of rubber mosaic pattern. The lobby to this floor has gumwood panels. The electrical fixtures are white and gilt.

The rear of the second floor is given over to the parts department. Here about $300,000 of spare parts is on hand ready to serve customers expeditiously.

The third and fourth floors will be used for the time being for the storing of new cars. Later other departments will likely be located there.

The fifth floor contains facilities for heavy repair work, the latest equipment for doing all kinds of repair work having been installed.

TESTS ON ROOF

The roof has been prepared for use in testing cars. This department was formerly located in the firm’s building on West Second street behind the P & N freight depot.

In addition to the passenger elevator, two freight elevators run from the bottom to the top of the building. They are all Otis made. In addition dumb waiters have been installed.

The Rockwood sprinkler system gives adequate protection from fires to the building. A tank holding 30,000 gallons of water is atop the structure.

NEW MODELS SHOWN

Many visitors went to the garage yesterday to inspect it and view the latest models of Buicks. They expressed great admiration for the completeness and attractiveness of the building and evidenced much interest in the cars. A number of improvements in the mechanics of the machines have been made, this being the first showing here. Substantial reductions in prices have been made.

C.C. Coddington, head of the corporation bearing his name, and Lee A. Folger, vice-president, entered the automobile business at Charlotte in 1909. The next year the sale of Buicks was so satisfactory that he was forced to move into a larger building on South Church street from his West Trade street location. In 1916 the plant was again found crowded and they built for their needs the garage at 432 West Trade street, just vacated. That building is now the property of J.H. Cutter.

C.C. Coddington, Inc. is distributor of the Buick automobile for the two Carolinas, having dealers throughout the state.

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