Rolling into history
by BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
Jan 17, 2014 | 2297 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
National Register eyes C.C. Card Auto

A view of the northeast side of the C.C. Card Auto Company building taken in 1940. Courtesy U.S. Department of the Interior
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KNOXVILLE — Future apartment residents of Cleveland may find themselves residing in a national historic landmark.

The State Review Board of the Tennessee Historical Commission voted here Thursday to forward their nomination of the C.C. Card Auto Company building to the National Register of Historic Places.

The board’s action brings the building one step closer to the prestigious recognition.

To be considered eligible for the National Register, a property must meet criteria of being generally 50 years old and looking much the way it did in the past.

The property also must be associated with important people, activities and events from the early years as well as possess significant architectural history.

According to the nomination documents, the building is being recognized for playing “a major role in the commercial and transportation development” of Cleveland.

It also notes the company was one of the earliest Ford dealerships in Tennessee and was the first one established in Cleveland. It began operations on Nov. 22, 1911.

The Ford franchise extended across four states, and its opening made C.C. Card the only Ford dealer within that region at the time.

In the early years, Model T autos sold for as little as $380.

Cars would arrive on the nearby railroad, often unassembled, and C.C. Card had its own assembly line to put them together.

The nomination form is filled with interesting statistics.

The company sold only five cars in 1911, it sold 13 in 1912, 30 in 1913 and 51 in 1914.

The original C.C. Card building burned and then Card purchased land in 1915 from the trustees of First Baptist Church and built the building being recognized on Inman Street.

It was built to Ford’s standards, including a large showroom “with refined architectural detailing including pressed tin ceilings, terrazzo floors and a wide open space for customers to look at the cars.”

One of the unique features was its structure, allowing cars on the upper level as well.

By 1916, Card had doubled his sales from the previous year to 102 cars.

Recognition of the building also paid tribute to the expansion of transportation during those early years of the 20th century.

The nomination states the Card Auto Company was founded at a time when the infant automobile industry was beginning to play a large part in local economics.

C.C. Card was also the beneficiary of federal programs that “worked to improve local roads and highways for the owners of these new forms of transportation.”

The auto sales continued at the Inman Street location until 1964.

The building is now owned by Card’s great-grandson, Bradley County Board of Education vice-chairman Nicholas Lillios.

Lillios is currently in the process of converting the building into 14 loft apartments planned for completion by summer.

The building next door, also owned by Lillios, is being converted into a new branch for Capital Mark Bank.

If approved, the C.C. Card Auto Company building will take its place alongside 15 other nationally designated sites in Bradley County.

The other Bradley County sites are the Blue Springs Encampments and Fortifications, Broad Street United Methodist Church, Centenary Avenue Historic District, Charleston Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Cleveland Southern Railway Depot, Cleveland to Charleston Concrete Highway, Hair Conrad Cabin, Craigmiles House, Fillauer Brothers Building, First Presbyterian Church, Hardwick Woolen Mills, Henegar House, W.J. Hughes Business House and Ocoee Street Historic District.