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Seattle Images: Commercial Auto Service Inc. and Alaskan Way

Today’s feature image takes us to Seattle, Washington, for a late-1940s or early-1950s view of Commercial Auto Service Inc., located on both sides of an unknown thoroughfare in the City. The two-story main building complete with a tower is on the left-hand of the street and is quite substantial in size, which may indicate that the Garage had been in business for quite some time.

Signs over the drive in door of the service facility include those for Goodyear, Plymouth, and an Easy Pay Plan. Across the street the long Commercial Auto Service Inc. sign lists “Automobile Rebuilding Repairing And Painting” at the bottom, which may indicate that the body shop that rebuilt wrecks, repaired collision damage and did painting was located in the building behind it.

The only reference to the facility found after a short search was in book published in 1968 by the Office of the Washington Secretary of State listing business licenses issued that year.

Tell us what you find of interest in this scene and another below of an intersection on Alaskan Way. The Seattle Municipal Archives photos were found via Dan Strohl at Hemmings Dailey.

  • Enlargeable view of Commercial Auto Service Inc. above, and a street scene dated 1939 at an intersection on Alaskan Way in Seattle, Washington.

15 responses to “Seattle Images: Commercial Auto Service Inc. and Alaskan Way

  1. In the lead photograph, driving toward the camera, in the foreground, is a 1946 CHEVROLET followed by a 1948 or ’49 STUDEBAKER Commander.

      • Can anybody identify the car across the street from the Pontiac. I’m looking on my phone and the sign partly obscures it, but I’m fascinated with that one. Is it wearing fender skirts? Hard to tell on tiny screen, do I see running boards? I love the roof line, window shape, and pronounced continuation of the front fenders into the doors.

        • B V 4,

          The car you refer to looks like a 1942 OLDSMOBILE Special Club Sedan; most likely not wearing fender-skirts.


        • Looks like a 1946/48 Cadillac to me. The rear bumper tip is a clue as is the finned tailight, a classic Cadillac feature .
          Otherwise it might be a 1946/48 Oldsmobile 98 which had the same bottom style.

          • AML & Dave B

            Having looked up your suggestions, I’m leaning ‘4X Olds based on the trailing edge of the front fender. Strange that I’ve never been all that interested in 40’s Olds models before. Right angle and just enough hidden from view in this pic, I guess. Thanks for taking time to help me out.

  2. I believe that this is Denny way, looking east, at the corner of 9th ave N. the building on the left was a Chevrolet dealer up into the 90’s and the building on the right was Durham tops and upholstery. Denny park is on the lower left of the picture where the sprinkler is running.

  3. Commercial Automotive Service became Frank Hawkins Buick, which survived until the building was declared unsafe after the 1996 Nisqually earthquake. The intersection just beyond the dealership is Westlake Avenue. From a 2015 obituary of Stan Rood, a long-time car salesman in Seattle comes the following bit of history:

    Mr. Rood’s downtown Seattle Buick dealership and others like it played a vital role in society after World War II. Highway expansion and the migration of families to the suburbs set the stage for a car-centric society.
    Mr. Rood owned the Buick dealership from 1962 to 1984 — “the golden age of the automobile business,” said Marty Rood, his son.
    Stan Rood started and ended his career in South Lake Union at a three-story building, the headquarters of Commercial Automotive Service, working his way up from parts boy to president. The company was a major Pacific Northwest distributor for Goodyear Tire & Rubber and for Chrysler’s DeSoto and Plymouth vehicles.
    In 1957, the company became the nation’s first Toyota dealer. Weak sales pushed the firm to switch its lineup and become a dealer for General Motors.
    Commercial Automotive’s president, Frank Hawkins, selected Stan Rood to become the owner of the company’s downtown Buick dealership in 1962.

  4. I find it interesting in the number of “streamline” style cars in many of the ’40’s, and early ’50’s pictures. Where have they all gone ?

  5. In front of the dealer, is an “Advance Design” Chevy panel, possibly the delivery truck. Tire sale,,,$3 BUCKS??? Bottom pic in front, is a ’38 or ’39 Ford 1.5 ton truck,( with a large driving light below the bumper) and what looks like a “C” series IH panel behind it. Farther to the left, are 2 trucks shuttling freight from one truck to the other, and maybe a Mack up agin the dock.

  6. The last picture, I would have guessed was 1938 just from looking at the cars. But ’39 it could well be.
    The thing I find most interesting about it, is the unusually large number of older cars in the view. There appear to be at least ten 1929 through 1932 cars in there, as well as a few ’33/’34/’35 vehicles. Maybe it was a working side of town?
    I wish I could tell what the car parked against the curb at the bottom of the picture was. It looks a lot like the ’29 REO coupe I used to have. I can tell it has a rumble seat, and my REO had the bars on the side and rumble seat lid just like that. However, there were a dozen other cars very similar in style, and the detail in the picture isn’t clear enough for me to tell. I also suspect that this car may be a roadster. Based mostly on the way the rear window is torn out of the top.

    Another interesting car, is the little car in the stopped line of cars, right behind the ’29 Ford model A sport coupe (remarkably well maintained for a ten year old car those days). It looks like an Austin, maybe even a British model? I also wondered about some Willys models, but the fenders just don’t look right to me for Willys? I can’t really tell from the photo (angles and all), but it appears to be maybe pulling a small trailer. Whatever it is, it is interesting, and smaller than the model A.
    Thanks again David G for an interesting look back!

  7. Photo 2, car behind the Model A Coupe, 3rd in line, is a 1933-34 Willys 77 sedan pulling a trailer. The headlights look goofy because they lay back and a crazy angle. A few weeks back I got to drive a friends unrestored 1936 Willys 77 Coupe which he has owned for 51 years. It was livelier than I expected. But the sedan with 4 adults and a trailer would be pokey at best.

    Once again, great site David!

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