Then & Now: Fred Sippel Auto Company – Joliet

The automobile revolutionized American culture and society during the early 20th century. With the new availability of reliable and affordable automobiles, dealers began to see their sales numbers rise.

As automobiles increasingly became a common necessity for rural and urban life, many large cities developed a location where many automobile sales service center companies clustered.

Soon, service companies and other business concerns that sold batteries, tires, and other auto supplies also sprang up within the vicinity of the commercial dealers.

In most cities, the areas where auto companies and suppliers gathered were typically near downtown and along major arterial streets.

Early 20th century automobile showroom buildings typically were one to three stories in height, usually built of reinforced concrete, clad with brick and ornamented with stone.

These buildings also featured large first-floor storefront windows that allowed the passersby to see the floor models and often included large open spaces on all floors for the display of automobiles.

According to The Horseless Age, an early 20th century automobile trade journal, a contract had been let in 1916 for the construction of a garage and showroom for Fred Sippel. The contract called for a fireproof building with a frontage of 140 feet and a depth of 200 feet.

Before coming to Joliet, Fred Sippel sold Ford automobiles from a showroom in Manhattan. Sippel was accused in a lawsuit filed in the circuit court of Joliet of obtaining cars and selling them at less than list price. The litigation forced Sippel to discontinue his business the same year his Joliet showroom was constructed.

The Fred Sippel Auto Company of Joliet, located at 100 N. Scott St. near the northeast corner of Scott and Jefferson streets, was both an automobile distributor as well as a repair garage. Over the years, the Sippel showroom included Reo, Cadillac, Studebaker, Chalmers and Buick automobiles.


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