The Sim Hudson Motor Company at Thirteenth Street and Senter Avenue in Burlington (1332 Senter Ave.,Burlington, Colorado), the Kit Carson County seat, served as a car dealership and service center for more than eighty years. Built around 1919 as the Golden Belt Garage, it was soon acquired by Sim Hudson, who remodeled the building’s facade in the Art Deco style in 1932. An excellent example of early automobile sales and service facility, the property remained a car dealership until 2000 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
Golden Belt Garage
At the end of the nineteenth century, the earliest automobiles in the United States were expensive toys rather than practical means of transportation. That changed with the introduction of mass-produced cars such as Ransom Olds’s Curved Dash Oldsmobile in 1901 and Henry Ford’s Model T in 1908, which made automobiles affordable for a much wider swath of Americans.
As American car ownership swelled to more than 5 million by 1918, new businesses developed to offer sales, fuel, service, and storage. At first these were evolutions of existing establishments, such as horse liveries or blacksmith shops. In Burlington, for example, a blacksmith named Ed Hoskin performed car repairs at his shop at Thirteenth Street and Center (later Senter) Avenue, and he also operated an adjacent garage with a curbside gas pump.
By the late 1910s and early 1920s, more businesses catering specifically to automobiles were starting to take shape. Around 1919, Hoskin installed a larger tank for his curbside gas pump and built a new sixty-car garage and adjacent shop called the Golden Belt Garage, probably named for the Golden Belt Highway (later US 24), which passed through town. Like most car-related businesses built before the 1950s, the garage was a one-story utilitarian building that stood near the street and was located close to downtown—much different from today’s dealerships and service centers, which tend to be in the suburbs, surrounded by a sea of asphalt and cars.
Sim Hudson’s Dealership and Garage
In 1922 Hoskin sold the Golden Belt Garage to Sim Hudson, who had previously operated a garage and repair shop around the corner on Thirteenth Street. Hudson acquired a franchise to sell Chevrolets in Burlington and turned the Golden Belt Garage into the Sim Hudson Motor Company, offering sales, repairs, parts, storage, and fuel from the curbside pump. By 1926 he installed a second gas pump out front and put up a canopy to keep rain and snow off drivers getting their tanks refilled.
Burlington had a handful of car dealerships in the late 1920s, but Hudson differentiated himself from the rest in 1932, when he commissioned a renovation of his utilitarian dealership into an Art Deco temple to the automobile. The Art Deco style had become popular for dealerships in the late 1920s because it conveyed a sense of luxury and modernity. At Hudson’s redesigned dealership, the canopy over the curbside gas pumps was removed to make the building lighter and more inviting. Pilasters of varying heights framed a row of enlarged windows along the Senter Avenue facade, enticing customers to step inside. A showroom with elaborate Art Deco finishes fronted the street on the west side of the building, with the shop in the rear. The east side of the building housed parts and service, with a roll-up garage door allowing vehicles to drive in. Hudson’s remodeled dealership was different from any other building in Burlington, and his grand reopening in June 1932 attracted a large crowd.
With his recognizable dealership and his reputation for good promotions, Hudson weathered the Great Depression and World War II to enjoy the postwar American car-buying frenzy. By 1950 Americans owned nearly 40 million passenger cars. That year Hudson expanded his operation by adding a one-story body shop at the rear of the parking lot just east of his dealership. In a reflection of rising postwar prosperity, he also started selling Cadillacs to cater to customers who were moving up in social and economic status and wanted to drive a higher-end car. Meanwhile, curbside gas pumps fell out of favor as covered service stations took hold, and Hudson stopped selling gas at his curbside pump sometime in the 1950s. The pump was removed, but the Art Deco pylons marking its location remained standing in front of the building.
After Sim Hudson
After Sim Hudson’s death in 1960, his widow, Hazel, ran the dealership with longtime employee Eldon Snowbarger. They kept up the business until 1983, when they sold their Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac franchises to Vince and Jane Schreivogel. Hazel Hudson retained ownership of the historic Sim Hudson Motor Company buildings, which the Schreivogels used for their dealership, called Vince’s. In 2000 the Schreivogels bought additional General Motors franchises from another Burlington dealership and moved their operation to Rose Avenue.
After Hazel Hudson’s death in 2005, Frank and Venita Lund acquired the Sim Hudson Motor Company. In 2007 they got the former car dealership listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The property is now home to Venita’s Ceramics.