1925 - H.O. Bell Garage - Missoula, MT
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BK-Hunters
N 46° 51.962 W 113° 59.907
12T E 271478 N 5194642
Quick Description: On the south side of West Fourth Street a half block west of Higgins Avenue, this is one of the minority of commercial buildings which contribute to the Missoula Southside Historic District.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 3/2/2015 10:51:54 PM
Waymark Code: WMNF0E
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member saopaulo1
Views: 0

Long Description:
The H.O. (Harry Oscar) Bell Garage, the first Ford dealership in Missoula, was opened by Bell in 1915 with a $30,000 dollar loan and an equal amount of credit. Harry owned the business for the next 55 years. It would have been Harry who built this garage in 1925 when the dealership expanded and required larger premises.

No longer a Ford dealership, the "127" address is occupied by Kent Bros. Automotive, who do auto repairs, while the "115" address is occupied by "GCS" (Geographic Communication Systems), A Geoanalytics Company.

Harry Oscar Bell 'H.O.'

Who was Harry "H.O." Bell?
Harry Oscar "H.O." Bell may have only had a fifth grade education but he built an empire from good old hard work and resourcefulness. H.O. Bell owned and operated the first Ford car dealership in Missoula. He was an avid aviation enthusiast and played a principle role in the development of the Missoula airport. He was a race car driver, mechanic, inventor, and rancher.

Bought the first Ford car dealership in Missoula in 1915. In 1929 he opened the first modern sales and service building on South Higgins Avenue.

• 1899. Harry’s Uncle Daniel Mullett bought the first car in that part of the country – a Milwaukee Steamer. This laid the foundation for Harry’s love for automobiles and his future destiny. He would take the car, and future cars, apart then put them back together again and drive them around the country roads.

• 1901. Fascinated by a Winton automobile owned by his uncle, Harry went to the Indianapolis agency where it was purchased and sought employment. He was hired at a dollar a day and remained working for the Carl Fisher Automobile Company for five years.

• 1901-1906. Harry spent these years tearing apart and re-building the many race cars owned by Carl Fisher. (Carl Fisher eventually built the Indianapolis Speedway and Miami Beach Florida Speedway.) Long distance auto racing was thought to be the ‘way of the future’ and was used to gain insight into improvements in design and construction of automobiles. Through Harry’s experimenting, he successfully invented a safety plug used in acetylene tanks to illuminate early headlights.

• 1904-1905. Harry traveled the race car circuit throughout the Midwest as Carl Fisher’s mechanic. At one point, Harry was the relief driver for Jap Clemmons who was driving at a National.

• 1906. His love of fishing brought him west to Spokane, Washington. His friend, Lou A Rose, had an uncle in the car business in Spokane who offered a line of credit to the boys to open a new store. The business closed after one year. Other ventures were tried but also failed.

• 1909. Hired by Jack Stoner who owned the Stoddard-Dayton Reo dealership. Harry did most of his racing at this time. Harry won the Wemme Trophy race in Portland, Oregon driving a Studebaker at 56 mph for 100 miles on a dirt track with dirt 4-5 inches deep in spots. The 14 mile course had 4 right angle turns and one S turn every 14 miles.p> • 1910. Harry ventured back East. He had his first balloon ride over Indianapolis but due to lack of wind, three hours later they were only 40 miles from their take-off point and had to wait for a motorist below to grab the drag rope and tie it to a tree to let them down.

• 1912. Became a wholesale manager traveling Washington, Idaho, and Montana, establishing new dealerships.

• Note. There were no show rooms in the early years of car sales, only garages. Everything but the body of the car was considered an accessory and cost extra such as the lights, windshield, and tops. Early car owners didn’t care about style but performance was the key. Gas tanks were located under one of the seats. Automobiles brought issues needing the City of Missoula’s attention such as:
• 1906. Ordinance limiting the speed of an auto to eight miles per hour and required to stop if frightening the horses.
• 1907. Ordinance requiring two lights in front and one in back of every auto.

• 1915. Harry was offered financing to open the Ford dealership in Missoula. $30,000 in cash and an equal amount of credit was provided by his boss, under the terms of a contract written by the 30-year-old Bell.
He owned this business for 55 years.
From Garden City Family Album Stories


Year of construction: 1925

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