Francis Auto Sales – Mystery Location

This 1950s-era photo shows a Francis auto sales dealership somewhere in Portland. The photo provides very few clues as to its location. Hint: all the buildings still exist. There is one red herring to try to throw you off track so good luck! Bonus points for identifying the year and make of the cars at the curb.

(University of Oregon Libraries)

23 thoughts on “Francis Auto Sales – Mystery Location

  1. There’s something really familiar about the intersection to the right, with the slope of the ground and even that nondescript taller building in the background, but I can’t place it. So frustrating!

  2. It looks similar to the building next to the Ace Hotel between 10th and 11th and Washington and Stark in SW, but due to the street being on the side of the building I don’t think it can be it.

    If it is not this building, do you think you could figure out what it used to be? It has been vancant for as long as I can remember aside from the parking garage on the 11th side.

    Here’s my guess at the Autos:

    1. 1954 Chevy wagon
    2. +3. are the same year, 1956, and I believe they are Pontiacs.

  3. University Station – the Post Office at 1505 SW 6th
    Francis was a long-time Ford, Lincoln, Mercury dealer (various locations if I remember correctly). My family bought a Pinto from them in the 70s – luckily we survived.

  4. ah. beaten to the punch. I was going to say the parked car directly behind the motorcycle is without a doubt a 1956 plymouth.

  5. That auto dealer was there for many many years. But where? Off Jefferson, I beleive & that looks like the old Oregonian building in the background.

  6. Francis Motor Car Company was owned by Clarence Francis. His dealership was on the corner of SE Hawthorne & Grand Avenue. They were a Ford, Mercury, Lincoln-Zephyr dealer. He and his wife Myrtle, lived up on Wavery Country Club Rd. for many years.
    Oh and the wagon is a Plymouth: 1953,54..there’s little difference. The 2 cars below the trike are 1956 Mercurys. Montereys and Montclairs were battling for the high end in this era and they look like they’re nicely equipped.

  7. Peter is correct….i can remember riding my bike up to Francis from Ladds Addition to collect the new car brochures. They used to cover the windows with paper to prevent people from seeing the new models until the release. There is a 3rd 56 Mercury behind the white one rounding a corner. The mortocycle is a Harley which were often used for deliveries around town in those days.

  8. One more vote of support for Peter. Somehow entertaining to see a Plymouth wagon parked so near a Ford Dealer. Even more interesting is the Harley-Davidson servi-car police trike!

  9. The Fancis on Hawthorne and Grand was a 3-story building: http://files.usgwarchives.net/or/multnomah/bios/francis1365gbs.txt (mention) http://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/6240205495/ (picture). This is 2-story in the image. portlandpreservation is correct, the used car dealer across the street is now the post office on broadway and clay, the Francis building in the foreground in on the north side of clay: https://vintageportland.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/a2005-001-98-sw-broadway-columbia-south-after-one-way-grid-1950.jpg (second building on the left)

  10. After it was Francis Mercury it was Dick Niles Lincoln/Mercury. The Francis Ford at Grand & Hawthorne is now the Multnomah County building.

  11. C.E., ‘Ed’ Francis was a second generation car dealer in Portland. His father, C.E., Clarence, owned Francis Ford on SE Grand Ave. After WWII his son , Ed, founded Francis Lincoln Mercury in a new building on the full block bounded by SW Clay, Columbia, Broadway and 6th. Designed by one of Portland’s finest architects, Richard Sunderleaf, it was the latest in a full sales and service dealership. The Francis family were close family friends of ours and Uncle Ed, also know as Uncle “V’ (for V8) was my Godfather

  12. I really liked working at Francis even tho my tenure was short. I was the last Body shop manager in February 1982. I loved being in the city and overlooking the river from my 3rd floor office, looking into the city at dusk when all the city lights came on. Francis Ford at this time was owned by two partners, John and Jim. The demise of the dealership was a rather long story. First 3 partners bought that dealership. John was a long time employee, Jim an accountant and a third person whose occupation unbeknownst to me. Their purchase was sometime around 1978?? First the 3rd partner had to be bought out, then I had heard talk of a court case between the Dealership and the FTC (federal government). I was told it was over tacking on the refurbishing costs to the price of a used car to the retail selling price. I heard the litigation cost the dealership over $100,000. The Dealership won! Unfortunately the won the battle but lost the war, so to speak. It hurt them financially. Then the recession of 81/82 set in which lasted 8-10 years. They were in an old part of downtown. When the Marquam bridge went in years earlier it diverted a lot of traffic that previously went by the dealership on the “action corner”..Grand & Hawthorne. That part of town was dying. I was told Ford was assisting the dealership in the acquisition of property and to build a new dealership near Clackamas Town Center. Even during the recession they figured they could survive until the economy turned around. The dealership was trying to secure a loan thru the SBA. The employees were told the bank was stalling. In reality I was told the witholding taxes were owed. Once that news got out it all began to unravel. Po’s weren’t being accepted around town, then it was cash or cashiers check only. The the heat was shut off. My last employee asked how we were going to paint a fender on a Torino. The sun was shining thru the glass in the south corner of the shop. We went down and stood there for a while and it was surprisingly warm. We pushed the car down there and painted the fender and got it assembled and delivered to the customer. Then one morning in mid February we were called to a meeting. At that meeting they announced the dealership was closing that evening at 6 PM and that we would be paid 50 cents on a dollar. They added that was all the money there was!! I went to work calling customers and insurance adjusters and tow trucks citing everything had to be out of there by the end of business that day, otherwise people could not get their cars. Even the technicians would not be able get their tools. I negotiated with adjusters for work partially completed and had tow trucks moving cars out. I got ALL the cars out of the shop. On the way out, my only employee and I got in my car and John came up to bid us farewell. I drove down the ramps to the first floor with a heavy heart. It was a very tough day. Not many of the customers knew I was the one that got there cars out and never got a thank you. But it was the right thing to do. I did file a wage claim and got a judgement (only to get what was owed me figuring after everything was auctioned off that there would be something left for the employes) We never got another dime. When it came time to file for unemployment I was told they had no record of me working there. It became evident they paid no unemployment insurance for me or many others. Having been self employed for so long I had no unemployment there for me. I was forced to relocate to Alaska. Francis Ford was a great place to work. It was very unfortunate they met with a series of difficult circumstances that led to their demise. Some of the above may not be entirely accurate since some information was second hand or rumor, but it is the way I remember it. The building qualified for some historic funds and a bank purchased the building and property and completely remodeled it . Today a 5 ? story building sits on the rear of the lot with a 3? story building in front of it.

  13. Part of the demise of Francis Ford, if memory serves me correctly was, They got in trouble with the state because they were reselling repossessed vehicles for more than what was owed on them and not giving the difference to the original buyers, Which today is still outlawed.

  14. Very interesting Ford dealership history. I landed on this page after doing research of Francis Ford. This past weekend at a garage sale I purchased several license plates, among them were two dealer-like printed plates with the name of Francis Ford on them. These were purchased near Portland.

    One reads: “1948, Francis Ford, Completed It’s Building, Opening new truck shop and showroom”. Was the building in above image built in 1948?

    The other plate reads: ” 1964, [name], Joins, C. Edwin Francis, in Francis Ford”. I did not post the actual name on the plate. So, is the C. Edwin Francis the second generation?

    Plates are very nice shape and proudly adding them to my collection.

    Thanks to all for the input of this information.

  15. The last vestiges of the Richard Sunderleaf design occupied by the US Post are gone. Now cleared, the site will soon be occupied by St. Mary’s new building. After Sunderleaf designed his new dealership building, Ed Francis had Sunderleaf design his new home near the top of SW Scholls Ferry Road; it was a great design too.

  16. Most of the comments are pretty close to true , especially Charles Matschek’s additions. My grandfather was George L. Francis , younger brother to C.E. Francis , and was his partner in the business. Several other buildings in Portland were Francis Motor Car Company facilities including what later became known as Fisher Ford and then Jim Fisher Ford. Further up Burnside was a building that eventually became a Volvo store if I’m not mistaken . Not sure what was sold there as a Francis facility. The two brothers had other franchises as well as facilities. They also dabbled in building very early editions of ” motorhomes ” on two ton truck chassis and Lincoln chassis. They were big in the heavy truck and commercial truck business and eventually started a spinoff company called NW Truckstell . Their manager and partner eventually bought them out. It was a very successful and well run outfitter for the commercial truck business. They also started a finance company that ran successfully for many decades. The story about repos is not actually accurate but had some truth to it. It’s very rare for a repossessed vehicle ( in those days ) to be sold for more than was owed by the first buyer. Several reasons point to this. Number one , the owner could have sold their way out of debt if it was truly worth more. Throughout Ford Motor Company there were many rumors of embezzlement as the final blow to the company . Although there was never any substantial proof made public it is a very plausible guess. I owned a competing Ford store at that time in Gresham Oregon, and yes ,I can tell you , it was a very tough time for domestic dealers.

  17. This building was on Grand and Hawthorne where the Multnomah Building is. The building behind it is on 6th and Hawthorne and is still there. It later became Benjamin Franklin Savings and Loan briefly before the S&L crash when U.S. Bank took over. In 2000, Multnomah County moved in.

  18. I owned a 1952 Lincoln that was sold new at the building in the photo. At that time it was Francis and Hopkins Lincoln Mercury. In the 1970’s I bought two new Mercurys there when it was Dick Niles Lincoln Mercury.

    In the 1980’s I worked at Damerow Ford and Randy Francis was one of the owners.

  19. That’s the building that I worked in when it was Dick Niles Lincoln Mercury
    I was a automotive technician there from the mid-70s until they closed.

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