HOISINGTON — Manweiler Chevrolet, an 84-year-old business in Hoisington, has received designation on the Kansas Register of Historic Places and will seek designation on the National Register, particularly for its exterior look.
The building is described as Streamline Art Moderne. It was built in 1944 with a curved showroom, suggesting the flow of riding in a car. At one time, the business had gas pumps, but they were removed in the late 1970s.
“General Motors did not build (dealerships) during the 1940s because of World War II,” said Gene Manweiler, owner of the business with wife Paula. “Ours was built during the war. We’ve not been able to find one in 48 states that has an active dealership.” Furthermore, production of civilian cars ceased completely during WWII.
During the 1930s Depression, the sales of cars dropped, and then during the 1940s, cars for consumers were not made.
Two brother-in-laws with a vision of the future knew that there was pent-up demand. Construction was completed on the Manweiler-Maupin car dealership and the new business opened in July, 1944. Because of war shortages of plywood, four layers of gypsum board were used as the substrate for the vaulted roof over the shop area. Despite replacement doors and windows, much of the building looks original.
The neon sign was purchased in 1945 for $1,731. It was restored in 1998 and still lights Main Street.
The business is a fourth-generation family owned business, originally located at 167 W. 1st Street and then at the NE corner of 2nd and Main before its final location on south Main Street.
That location once housed a railroad YMCA that was struck by a tornado in 1919. It was repaired, but was closed in 1943.
When the building was built, it was called Manweiler-Maupin Chevrolet. Gene Manweiler is the great-grandson of J.B. Slade, the original founder of the business in 1928.
Slade sold the business to his two son-in-laws, August Manweiler and Wayne Maupin in 1937. In 1953, Maupin was bought out of the business. Then August’s son Larry began working in the business, followed by Gene in 1976.
The interior was remodeled in the 1970s when paneling was installed and the ceiling lowered. Manweiler is planning to upgrade the inside, “to better meet our customer needs,” he said.
The process of the designation is complex. Manweiler and wife Paula started working on the application in February and only received approval last week from the state. In addition, they hired a consultant to assist with the project.
But the project had its roots even earlier than that. Patrick Zollner, director of cultural resources of the Kansas Historical Society had a conversation with Hoisington City Manager Jonathan Mitchell.
“He (Zollner) knew our building,” said Manweiler. Zollner thought it was a cool Chevrolet dealership and cool neon sign.
The Manweilers had never thought about historical designation. When they began work, they went through ledgers from the 1930s as well as pictures from the era.
The couple are members of Hoisington Main Street Inc. “Knowing about Main Street Inc., we thought we’d be good role models to have received it,” said Manweiler.