Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ford sign

Several weeks back, we told you about a recently uncovered Ford sign in the space formerly occupied by Blockbuster on Foothill Blvd.  (just west of Myrtle).  At the time, we didn't know much else.  In fact, we were relying on our keen deductive abilities and were really going out on a limb that the “For” was actually "Ford". 

So now, in a nod to Paul Harvey, we give you…the rest of the story.

Home of Harry Nelson
126 Grand Avenue
Some preliminary research turned up an advertisement for the Nelson & Mosher Ford Agency.  In 1923, this business had an address of 119 W. White Oak Avenue (Foothill Boulevard's original name).  The owners of the business were Harry Nelson and Merle Mosher, both of whom were residents of Monrovia in the 1920s.  What we do know from early City Directories is that both men were involved with cars from an early time.  

The 1913-14 directory lists Merle Mosher as a chauffeur and Harry Nelson as an employee at the Monrovia Auto Livery company.  (Yes, early phone directories also included one’s occupation, too.)   Due to missing city directories, we are unable to determine exactly when their partnership began.  It had not formed in 1915 when H. Holdsworth advertised in the Monrovia Daily News that he had Fords for sale at 701 South Myrtle Avenue—“$625 f.o.b.”   (FOB stands for “free on board”, meaning that the buyer pays the shipping costs)

Automobiles were certainly a growing presence in Monrovia in the early 1920s.  Building permits from that time period document that many homeowners were building garages to complement their already existing homes, while building permits for new homes also included plans for a garage.   In 1922, there were at least eight car dealers in Monrovia including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, Nash, Studebaker, Packard and the Nelson & Mosher Ford Agency.  There was also at least one used car dealer at this time.  The car dealers were mainly located in the 100 and 200 block of South Myrtle, including the corner lot at Myrtle and White Oak.

If one looks into the rafters above the painted Ford sign, it is possible to make out the remnants of Nelson and Mosher’s names.


It appears from early insurance maps that the Ford sign was painted on an exterior wall that overlooked a narrow driveway or alley that allowed vehicle access to the rear of the property.   So when did the wall become part of an interior building?  There may be a clue in the dissolution of the Nelson/Mosher partnership.

By 1924, the Nelson & Mosher partnership no longer existed and Harry Nelson was the sole proprietor of Ford Sales and Service at 115-117 W. White Oak Ave., not the previously listed 119 W. White Oak Avenue.  Was this when the alley/building was remodeled?  Harry Nelson never bothered to paint over his previous partner’s name, so it is possible that at this time the exterior wall became an interior wall and was covered with plaster.  It is also interesting that Merle Mosher was no longer listed as a resident of Monrovia in 1924. 
Possible home of Merle Mosher
409 (405) East Olive Avenue

Also in 1924, Mosher’s Dry Goods which had been located at 425 South Myrtle since at least 1914 was no longer listed in the City Directory.  Assuming these Moshers were related, it appears the majority of the Mosher family left Monrovia at this time. 

Note the ads at the top and bottom of the page
from the 1922-23 Directory.
Coincidence?  Probably.
Harry Nelson maintained his Ford Agency in this location until at least 1931.  By 1946, Harry Nelson was no longer in the Ford business.  Monrovia’s Ford dealership was now located at 133 West Colorado Boulevard and was owned by Bud Miller.  Eventually, this property became part of a public parking lot and is now Colorado Commons.    

A final interesting note is an advertisement found in the Monrovia Daily News for the month of January 1915.   A realtor took out an advertisement for:

“Three lots on W. White Oak.   150 feet from Myrtle.  The lots were purchased by C.C. West for garage purposes but owing to the stand taken by the city authorities his plans have been abandoned.  Authorized to offer property at $3000” 

While it does not specify if these lots were on the north or south side of White Oak, if they are the north side lots they would include the site of the Mosher and Nelson Ford Agency.  Further research may uncover some answers—is this the actual location and what was the stand taken by city authorities?  So many questions...

Thanks to guest blogger Penny for all the research.