The Universal Motor Co. opened its newest location on the corner of East Cameron and North Main streets in 1917. At the time, the building was the largest and most modern Ford facility west of Chicago.
The two-story automobile complex was a dealership, assembly plant and distribution center for Ford. Railroad tracks extended to the building’s south side, allowing easy access to transport the vehicles in and out of the building.
On the first level along Main Street was the tile-covered showroom. The remaining area on the first floor was general offices and parts and service rooms where mechanics worked around the clock.
The assembly and machine shops were located on the second floor, while the roof was used as a “testing” area and additional storage space. A large freight elevator carried automobiles throughout the building. The roof also held the largest electric sign in the city. Each letter of the “Ford” sign was 4 feet tall.
Within a few years Ford abandoned the state-of-the-art facility, and the building became a warehouse. Owners of the building and its purpose changed over the decades until it was purchased by the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
The building, located on the last surviving original track of historic Main Street, was renovated by Lily Architects and finally reopened in 2015 as a mixed-use space with apartments, a brewpub and 36 Degrees North, a coworking space for local entrepreneurs.