An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

Parking Lot Series: Circa-1930 Image at an Unknown Location

Today’s “Parking Lot Series” image contains a view of a large parking facility located in a city at a mystery location. The only hint to where the picture was taken is the photo title “Auto Manufacturing 1937” although the date clearly does not apply to this photo. Hopefully, there are enough clues in the photo to allow our resourceful readers to identify where it was taken. The newest automobiles in the image appear to date to about 1930.

Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph from the Chamber of Commerce of the United States collection at the Hagley Museum and Library.

32 responses to “Parking Lot Series: Circa-1930 Image at an Unknown Location

  1. The photo of the fabric roof panels of all these cars is interesting. Until the mid to late 30’s steel roof panels were not utilized either due to technology or cost. In the hot rod hobby today, one of the first modifications made is too replace the fabric and wood bows with a donor steel roof from a modern vehicle.

    • I believe the issue was that up until that point the manufacturers had not figured out how to produce a one piece solid steel roof that did not a act as a giant drum head, amplifying every rumble and vibration in the chassis. Once they were able to stamp a roof deep enough and with enough curvature the problem was solved.

  2. It is amazing how quickly the Model T disappeared. I see maybe one or two cars that could be Model T’s. They were only a few years old at the time this photo was taken. My guess is that the Model T design was like driving a Yugo in 1930.

    • Amen Neil! I remember that you had to lift the seat on a “T” to check your fuel level with a stick. Had to crawl under and remove a plug to check oil level. There were catalogs offering MANY aftermarket accessories as the “T” was as basic a stripped down model as you could imagine. Lots of folks swore by them, some swore at them and some did both! The “newer” cars were so much more advanced. I guess it might be like when calculators came in, slide rules went out.

    • Also, if you were driving in a city (and it looks like that would apply here), you spent most of your time in low gear. Which meant you spend most of your time depressing a heavy pedal with your left foot. I’d imagine that got tiring after a while.

      • Interesting. Like all over the world most people in Brazil learnt to drive in a model T. But when clutch operated cars became common, many folks just couldn’ t keep their left foot off the pedal. And they used the clutch to reduce speed instead of brakes. Sure enough, brakes weren’ t very efficient in those days. Also, one could drive all day in second gear because shifting was rather complicated for them (no synchromesh).

    • In the precise pronunciation and measured cadence of my old Business professor Dr. Vern Whiting, ” After people had had a Ford for their first car after the horse and buggy, they wanted something better than the old Model T” He used this example talking about product life cycles, the urge for something better as the next purchase. I can’t to this day see a Ford Model T without thinking of this description of it as “the old Model T”!

  3. R-L first row Fordson industrial with Whitehead & Kales bumper/wheels etc; Paige , 28 Buick, 29 Ford with 1930-31 deluxe rack, 6 cyl Chevrolet, 4 cyl Chevrolet , 1931 Ford….. 2nd row R-L Oakland or Pontiac, Plymouth , 6 cyl 29-30 Chevrolet, Ford 28-29 coupe, Studebaker….. Your turn.

  4. Funny how we say all the cars look the same today. Not much different then. I can’t tell one from the other. I think the grill was the only way.

  5. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…
    No more complaints from old guys complaining that all modern cars look alike!

  6. All the vehicles in this photo seem too have vertical windshield posts vs the slanted or laid back posts which appeared on most cars around 1932. Also the square bodies vs the rounded bodies of ’32 on date the photo to about 1930 at best imo.

  7. Hardly any Roadsters, maybe four? The lack of open top cars would indicate a northern location possibly. I knew the tractor was a Fordson, but the bumper/wheel combo is new to me. The bumper looks like a push plate.

    • I wonder if the Fordson was the lot “recovery vehicle” for when a car wouldn’t start. no doubt had a chain too.

      “put ‘er in second, make sure the fuel and ignition are on….I’ll give you one chance”!

  8. I’m wondering if this could be a parking lot for one of the Ford regional assembly plant? The building corner at lower left looks like some of the later ones such as Louisville. A lot of those workers had used cars, so this picture could be later than you might think, but certainly not as late as 1937.

    • I believe that Ford workers were encouraged to drive Fords. There are a fair number of non-fords in the shot.

  9. I’m struck by how many cars are backed into their parking spaces. I know factory workers were encouraged to back in when they parked. When they all got out at once after a shift, it was safer to pull into the traffic of the busy lot than to back into it.

    Given that a large chunk of the cars seem to be inexpensive two-door sedans — i.e. cars a worker would drive — I’d guess this was a factory lot somewhere. And you can almost make out the signage on the building in the background.

  10. This one is too early for my liking, as all the cars back then looked pretty much the same and the photo emphasizes that point. If the year was 1940 it would be a lot better, and if it was 1950 with all those post war cars that were being made and sold it would be even better. Fortunately, your site has featured many parking lot photos from around that time and I’ve enjoyed them all.

  11. The larger car with sidemounts and grouped hood vents between the two door coach parked front in and the light-colored ’29 Chevrolet coupe might be a 1930 Studebaker Dictator Eight. I’d opine the location is employee parking for a manufacturer. The brick building with the tower looks like the style of an armory.

  12. I can’t find a single vehicle in the photo that is sporting a license plate (on either end) and wonder if perhaps these vehicles are slated for export. Given that the image is circa 1930, around the beginning of the Great Depression, could it be that there was a still active market elsewhere in the world (South America?) the wanted these cars? If the location is Detroit the method of shipping could have been either by ship or rail. The organized manner in which they are parked doesn’t look like any unpainted employee parking lot I can recall.

    • I have never seen a parking lot where the cars are so well spaced. Must have had an attendant to direct the drivers how to park.

  13. Here is the response from Hagley Library regarding what city the photo was taken in.

    Thanks for contacting Hagley Library. I believe the photo was taken in Detroit. It was featured in a May 1937 issue of Nation’s Business magazine. While the article does not identify the photo’s location, there is a building in the left background of the photo with the words “Wolverine Porcelain Enamel…” “Home of Glasiron-Roofing Tile.” The company was located at 3350 Scotten Avenue in Detroit.


    Angela Schad
    Reference Archivist and Digital Archives Specialist
    Audiovisual Collections & Digital Initiatives
    Hagley Museum and Library
    Wilmington, Delaware, USA

  14. The JPG image can’t be zoomed in too much, but if you look closely at the few cars parked pointing in, I think you’ll find a few license plates. Remember that at this time a car would only usually have the one taillight and plate on the left rear.

  15. —Is the building in the background a church?

    —Churches buildings tend to have a longer life span than factory buildings do.

  16. —I did some double checking. That building is Romanesque Revival style, and it was used on public buildings, religious buildings, and private homes. It does not follow that it has a better chance of surviving into 2019 than any other building , because it may never have been a church.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *