The A.E. England Motorcar building, an automotive dealership constructed in 1926 along what will become to be known as auto-row which is along Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix. Ab England constructed the building to be his Phoenix dealership for the Hudson-Essex brands. These Hudson and Essex brands were very popular throughout the U.S. in the 1910’s-20’s, especially in Phoenix and surrounding areas where there were wealthy entrepreneurs seemingly flooding the region in the first part of the twentieth century.
The rise of the automobile in Phoenix and America occurred in the latter half of the 1910’s as more automotive brands became not only available but more affordable and attractive to upper, middle, and lower-middle class Americans. The rise in the popularity and use of the automobile in Phoenix was in part due to the financial success of the region, as well as improvements such as paved roads through the implementation of the 1916 Federal Aid Road Act which allocated federal funds to support road building projects. Phoenix had a rise in wealthy businessmen that came to the area during the period before the First World War through the early 1920’s. “Auto production increased from about 4,000 vehicles in 1900 to over 1.9 million in 1920” which shows the vast market that was available and brought dealers such as A.E. England to supply the tremendous demand. In Maricopa County alone, there was an increase in auto registration from 1925-1930 of 15,767 automobiles. Agriculture in Phoenix was booming as there was an intense need for food stuffs in Europe due to the devastation of the First World War, and companies such as Goodyear would flourish from both European and federal contracts to aid the war effort and supply goods after the war, which helped supply the region with wealthy entrepreneurs. The rise in wealth in America helped to spur auto culture. Arizona became known for its dramatic and picturesque landscape that was attracted automotive tourists and helped to increase demand for automobiles within Arizona.
A.E. England Motorcars opened the Hudson-Essex automobile dealership for business the night of July 30th, 1926 with a party-like atmosphere according to the Arizona Republic. Mr. England paid $75,000 for the lot and the construction of the building, today that would cost around $1.06 million dollars. The company sold Hudson and Essex automobiles, which were popular mid to high-end luxury vehicles, the Essex brand being the mid-priced option and Hudson being the high-end option. At the time when A.E. England opened his auto-row location, the Hudson-Essex models started at $660 for the lowest priced Essex and up to $1,165 for the Hudson, while the Ford model T range only cost $260 for the lowest priced option and $660 for the top of the line option. Hudson-Essex outsold all competitors in Arizona during 1928 with 877 new vehicles being registered in Arizona that year. This shows not only the popularity of the Hudson-Essex brands in Phoenix in the 1920’s, but also the tremendous wealth that had accumulated in the area to support such sales over less expensive auto brands.
By the time A.E. England Motorcar building was constructed and went into business in 1926, the automobile market in the U.S. was nearing its pre-war peak. Supply for autos in the U.S. began to surpass demand by the late 20’s. As a result, more and more dealerships began buying and selling used automobiles to stay afloat during the economically tumultuous times of the depression. Although Arizona was relatively unaffected by the depression compared to the rest of the U.S., England’s dealership announced on the 19th of October, 1930 that it would no longer operate. In the phoenix-based newspaper, The Arizona Republican, England announced that he “sold [his] entire stock of Brand New Hudson and Essex Automobiles to J.A. Herzog, who takes possession immediately. This closes out [his] stock of these cars.”
A.E. Enlgand’s endeavor lasted only four years, yet the impact of his Hudson-Essex dealership was noticed throughout Phoenix and Arizona as the brand’s success was nearly unmatched in the late 1920’s thanks to A.E. England’s dealership building. The success of this dealership in Arizona was in part due to the wealth that flowed through the region in the early twentieth century, and in part due to the widespread popularity of the brand and its messaging of such popularity. Presently (in 2019) Arizona State University owns the A.E. England building and uses it as a civic space for meetings, classes, art events, and banquets.