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Capitol Motor Company | Photo © 2020 Bullet, www.abandonedalabama.com

Capitol Motor Company

City/Town:
Location Class:
Built: 1953 | Abandoned: ~2000s
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David Bulit

McGough Motor Company

The origin of the Capitol Motor Company dates back to 1919 when Thomas Dawson McGough Jr. opened the city’s first automotive dealership, the McGough Motor Truck Company, to sell Federal trucks located in a small shop on Moulton Street. Three years later in 1922, the company was renamed McGough Motor Company and moved to Dexter Avenue to sell Hudson and Essex automobiles. On October 25, 1928, the company moved into a newly built structure at 243 Catoma Street. In 1930, the McGough Motor Company acquired the Packard franchise which at the time was considered the preeminent luxury car. A year later, it was awarded the Chevrolet franchise, marking a period of unprecedented growth and success.

McGough Motor Compan
Advertisement for the McGough Motor Truck Company in The Montgomery Advertiser, 1919

Capitol Motor Company

Thomas McGough Jr.’s two sons, Thomas Dawson McGough III and Frank Elmore McGough, grew up in the family business and were groomed for future leadership roles in the company. By the 1940s, the company was selling both Oldsmobiles and Chevrolet. In 1943, General Motors required that Oldsmobile become a separate franchise. After his sons returned from the war, Thomas McGough Jr. founded the Capitol Motor Company with Thomas McGough III as president of the newly formed company. The company was located at 412 Bibb Street and sold Oldsmobiles, White trucks, and had a used car lot.

Frank McGough was made president of McGough Chevrolet in 1948 and was renamed Capitol Chevrolet. In 1970, Capitol Chevrolet moved to 711 Eastern Boulevard and operated under the leadership of Frank McGough until his death in 1982. They were the first dealership to move to the area and were followed by other dealerships which later earned the name of the area “automobile row”. Capitol Chevrolet is still in business to this day.

1950 sanborn capitol
1950 Sanborn Insurance Map of Montgomery, Alabama. The Capitol City Motor Company began at 412 Bibb Street, currently occupied by Bibb Street Pizza Company. Library of Congress

The showroom on the corner of Goldthwaite and Herron Streets was built in 1953. Constructed by general contractor Bear Brothers for the Capitol Motor Company, the new building featured a repair shop and a modern display room which allowed space for up to three automobiles. The company competed with the Grimes Motor Company located just a couple of blocks north which sold Ford trucks and automobiles. When Capitol Chevrolet vacated the building at 243 Catoma Street in 1970, Capitol Motor Company into the building in October of that year.

The Capitol Motor Company moved to 405 Eastern Bypass in 1981. Thomas McGough III died in 1994, handing over the reins of the company to his son Harris McGough. Harris had been involved in the business since 1970 after completing a 14-month Army tour in Vietnam. By 1999, the Capitol Motor Company was operating under the name McGough Motors and continued dealing in Oldsmobiles as well as GMC and Izuzu. When General Motors discontinued in Oldsmobile brand in 2004, McGough Motors moved over to Pontiac, GMC, and Mazda. Four years later in 2008, the dealership when out of business, a victim of the financial crisis.

Capitol Motor Compan
Advertisement for the Capitol Motor Company in The Montgomery Advertiser, 1977

Post-Capitol Motor Co.

As for the showroom on Goldthwaite Street, it sat empty for a number of years after Capitol Motor Company vacated the building. It became the center of controversy in 1975 when it was announced that the U.S. Postal Service will temporarily move its downtown office from the federal courthouse to the old showroom.

U.S. Post Office

U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. ordered that the postal service move its downtown location to make way for an expansion of the courthouse. The City of Montgomery filed a lawsuit to halt the move to Goldthwaite Street after many citizens protested that the Goldthwaite location was too far away from downtown. In later testimony, it was discovered that C. E. Loftin, a retired Montgomery postal worker, leased the building from the McGough Building Corporation for $18,000 for five years. That same day, Loftin leased the property to the U.S. Postal Service for $36,000 for five years. It was also discovered that Loftin, although retired from the postal service, was constructing post offices in Autaugaville, Notasulga, and Hatchechubee. While not illegal, the circumstances surrounding the deal and those involved were viewed negatively by the public.

After months of deliberation, the U.S. Postal Service announced it was purchasing the block of 100 Catoma Street for its new downtown location. Their second choice was the block just north of it where the Capitol Motor Company was located at the time. The site they chose was the former location of the Cobb-Kirkland Motor Company. During the construction of the facility, the U.S. Postal Service planned on honoring the lease that had already been signed for the old showroom on Goldthwaite. As a result of the legal battle though, they agreed to leave customer service windows at the Federal Courthouse and strictly move carrier operations to the Goldthwaite location. An estimated $80,000 was spent on renovating the old building.

Food Stamps Office

In December 1981, it was reported that the Montgomery County food stamps office was moving from the Pension and Security office on Forest Avenue to the old Capitol Motor Company building on Goldthwaite. Unlike their previous location where clients had to wait in line outside, the new location featured a 250-seat waiting room. This comes after an increase in households participating in the food stamps program due to worsening economic conditions.

Nicole Maleine French Antiques, an antique shop that dealt with imported fine 18th, 19th, and 20th century antique French furniture and decorative accessories moved into the building with their grand opening occurring on April 24, 1996. In October 2018, the building was purchased by local developer Sys-Con LLC who also owned other properties in the Cottage Hill District such as the Hilltop Arms Apartments and the Benjamin W. Walker House. The property was to be part of the developer’s plan to rejuvenate the area with the renovation of the Hilltop Arms Apartments into an upscale boutique hotel which was to include restaurants, bars, stores, and an event hall. Construction on the apartment building was initially planned to be completed by Fall 2019 but the plans were scrapped.

capitol motor company at the c
Capitol Motor Company at the corner of Goldthwaite and Herron Streets, 1954. Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Photo Gallery

References

The Montgomery Advertiser. (August 28, 1953). Capitol Motors Will Display Oldsmobiles In New Building

The Montgomery Advertiser. (November 17, 1945). Capitol Motor Company Opening Today At 410 bibb Street

The Montgomery Advertiser. (June 1, 1994). Tom McGough Jr. Launched The Dealership In 1919

The Montgomery Advertiser. (July 18, 1982). McGough to head Capitol Chevrolet

The Montgomery Advertiser. (December 10, 1994). New Car Dealerships All In The Family

Alabama Journal. (July 6, 1963). T. D. McGough, Auto Business Pioneer, Dies

WSFA 12 News, Bryan Henry. (November 21, 2008). McGough Motors closes doors after 90 years in Montgomery

The Montgomery Advertiser. (July 23, 1975). Ex-Postal Worker Admits ‘Deal’ on Location Switch

The Montgomery Advertiser. (May 4, 1976). Downtown Post Office Site Made Official

The Montgomery Advertiser, Danny Lewis. (December 20, 1981). Food stamp office to move Monday

The Montgomery Advertiser. (August 1, 1975). New Postal Site Being Sought Downtown

David Bulit

My name's David Bulit and I'm a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. I've published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. My work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Tampa Bay Times, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of my work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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