Eye Candy: America’s Packard Museum at Citizens Motorcar Company

South Ludlow Street was “automobile row” in Dayton, Ohio.

The Citizens Motorcar Company was founded in 1917 and not only served as the Packard dealership in Dayton but as the distributor of Packards to dealerships in Cincinnati and Indianapolis as well.

Photos by Larry Edsall

Next door was what is believed to have been the first Chrysler dealership in the country, a Maxwell-Chalmers dealership that immediately converted when Walter P. Chrysler bought out the brand founded by Hugh Chalmers, the former vice president of Dayton-based National Cash Register.

At the end of the block was a Ford facility that assembled Model T kits on its upstairs floors and sold them in a showroom at street level. Just around the corner was a Stutz dealership.

Albert Kahn designed the Citizens building, which later served a Buick and finally a Pontiac dealership. Years later, a local attorney and car collector, Bob Signom, bought the historic Citizens building and the adjacent “Packard Pavilion,” a structure built in 1936 as a used-car dealership and Packard service center. Under Signom’s leadership, Citizens was returned it to its original Art Deco glory in 1992 as America’s Packard Museum.

Officially known as The Citizens Motorcar Company, America’s Packard Museum, the dealership is home to more than 50 historic Packard vehicles and other company artifacts, many donated by other Packard enthusiasts.

Glenn Hamilton, a retired emergency room physician and a Packard owner who has donated at least two of those cars, said Packard has a very positive history in Dayton, a city in southwest Ohio.

Packard was founded in Warren, in northeastern Ohio, by James Ward Packard, who had purchased an early Winton, found it lacking, took it back and was told that if he thought he could better, then build his own car. Packard and his brother had a company that manufactured generations, lamps and electric bells, hired away two of Winton’s engineers and did, indeed, build his own cars. His customers included William D. Rockefeller.

Packards were sold under the advertising slogan, “Ask the man who owns one” and along with Pierce and Peerless were considered the pinnacle of American luxury vehicles.

Although the company moved from Ohio to Detroit in 1903, when the Little Miami River flooded in 1913, killing some 200 people in Dayton, Packard responded immediately, sending a trainload of Packard trucks to help with the recovery effort, Hamilton said.

The museum is open daily (except Christmas and New Year’s Day), weekdays from noon until 5 p.m. and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for students.

For additional information, visit the museum’s website.

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