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Asheville had a Rolls Royce Dealer?!


It all started off innocently enough, with a simple question. I was getting ready to head out on a tour a couple of weeks ago, when a gentlemen stopped to talk to me and Mabeline the Model T. He asked me "have you ever heard that Asheville had a Rolls Royce dealership? I heard that Asheville was the smallest town to have a Rolls Royce dealer." He wasn't sure of the time period it existed or where it had been located, only that someone, somewhere had told him this. It certainly seemed possible with all of the wild and roaring times of the 1920s in Asheville. There were many high-end car sellers in Asheville like Lincoln, Auburn, Essex, Hudson, Stevens-Duryea and many more. After the tour, I immediately started researching Rolls Royce in Asheville and was amazed by what I found.


As it turns out, Asheville did have its own Rolls Royce dealership during the 1920s! The Weaver Motor Company, located at 31 Spruce Street in downtown Asheville had begun selling them as early as March of 1925. The Weaver Motor Company had been in business for a number of years selling Hudson and Essex motorcars. The Rolls Royce brand was brought to Asheville by their North Carolina sales representative, Dr. Walter S. Martin.


Asheville Citizen-Times, March 29, 1925, Page 17. via Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/article/asheville-citizen-times-rolls-royce-deal/130777514/ : accessed September 12, 2023), clip page for Rolls Royce Dealer - Weaver Motor Co. by user towsonhe


Dr. Walter S. Martin had come to Canton, North Carolina around 1911 from Hickory, North Carolina to work at the Champion Fibre Company when it was in its infancy. At the time he arrived, the town was not much more than a manufacturing village. During this time, Champion and the town continued to grow by leaps and bounds. He had left his drug store in Hickory and opened up what was said to be the first real drug store in the town. In 1917, he opened a tea room called Martin's Tea room, which was said to be quite popular. In addition to his drug store and team room, Dr. Martin decided in 1918 to open a Buick dealer and garage in town.


Owing to a strong lineage in Hickory, Dr. Martin was the son of the late Colonel Nick Martin. Dr. Martin was born and raised in Hickory and attended the Hickory grade schools, the old Hickory Military Academy and then received his A.B. degree from Lenoir College. After this, he went to the old Simpson school of pharmacy at Raleigh. During this time, he worked in his brother's clothing store to pay for his schooling expenses. From his first small drug store in Hickory to what was then one of the larger drug stores in the state located in Canton, Dr. Martin had come a long way. He even patented his own pills, Martin's Capsules. His tea room was said to attract hundreds of tourists annually. With the advent of car travel becoming more regular at this time, his tearoom and "unique gift shop" were a point of interest for weary travelers.





Dr. Martin had quite the penchant for salesmanship and what better man to represent Rolls Royce in North Carolina? His first two customers were also characters and men of means in their own right. Dr. Edward (sometimes spelled Edouard) E. Reed and Julius T. Horney were his first two customers at the Asheville showroom of Weaver Motors at 31 Spruce Street. The Asheville Citizen-Times reported on April 01, 1925 that Reed and Horney had just purchased two gleaming Rolls Royce automobiles.





Dr. Edward Reed, of the Kenilworth Development Company purchased a Pickwick Model Sedan in Lie Green with a lemon stripe outlining the body. It was mounted on a stock chassis, equipped with four wheel brakes, drum lamps and was right-hand drive.


Julius T. Horney of Horneyhurst Developments, purchased his Rolls Royce in a tan and buff two tone. Horney's Rolls Royce was also a Pickwick model sedan, in what was said to be "A slightly larger size."




Example of an early Rolls Royce Pickwick Sedan





Rolls Royce factory, Springfield MA - Photo Courtesy of Rolls Royce archive


At this time, Rolls Royce had an American factory in Springfield, Massachusetts that was in operation from 1921 to 1931, where these cars would have been built. Their goal was to capitalize on the affluent American market, but they were not quite able to make a healthy profit. The 1929 stock market crash signaled the slow end of this factory.


Dr. Reed had been a resident of Asheville from around 1925 to 1933. He first resided on Merrimon Avenue, then moved to the Grove Park neighborhood until finally settling in Kenilworth, where he was involved with developing and selling many fine homes there. He later moved to Clearwater, Florida in 1933 because of ill health and became mayor of Ballair, Florida.


Born in Texas, he lived there until he joined the army as a physician during the Spanish-American war. In Cuba, he was attached to Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders and was in his battalion, according to his obituary. Growing up in Texas and knowing Cattle, Dr. Reed remained in Cuba after the war and imported cattle from Venezuela, making a fortune in the cattle business. He would later become involved in the sugar business in Cuba and made another fortune. In addition to these two industries, he was a vice-president of the Royal Canadian bank in Cuba. He died in 1942 in Clearwater, Florida.




Julius T. Horney had made his fortune developing several towns in Florida, one of which was Lakeland, Florida. Lake Horney is still named after him to this day. He came to Asheville in the 1920s and developed a number of properties. He was said to have come to Canton, North Carolina and was listed as a lawyer and real estate developer. He bought the William Jennings Bryan house on Evelyn Place (in the Grove Park neighborhood) in 1920 for $30,000. In Florida, Horney gained some fame in the 1920s for co-writing a song "Lakeland: City of Heats Desire," that was written to promote real estate, according to the Lakeland Ledger newspaper.


His first development in West Asheville, "Horneyhurst," was touted as "West Asheville's Beauty Spot. In an April 1925 article from the Asheville Citizen about the Horney Heights development states in a photo caption that "J.T. Horney is the South's youngest and largest residential subdivision developer, financing all his own projects. A man of vision and daring, concentrating his energies in developing Western North Carolina and Florida Properties." Horney Hills is known as Malvern Hills today. According to the Citizen Times, Horney consummated at least half a dozen subdivisions in West Asheville before the stock market crash of 1929. Horney donated land for two parks in West Asheville before "he was just plum worn out."


After the stock market crash, he started a chain of livestock markets throughout the south. This was his main occupation until his retirement in 1940. At this time, he and his wife moved to Lakeland Highlands, an upscale neighborhood in Lakeland, Florida until his death in 1959 at the age of 70.






Original advertisement for Horney Hills in West Asheville


With the Asheville real estate and economic market as wild as it was, a Rolls Royce even showed up at a local used car dealer during the 1920s:




The site of the Weaver Motor Company at 31 Spruce street is a city parking lot today, located next to Pack's Tavern:




If you know any more about the Weaver Motor Company, Rolls Royce owners or ownership in Asheville during the 1920s, please send us an email at mountaineermotortours@gmail.com. Dr. Martin was the distributor of Rolls Royce in Asheville and North Carolina from 1925, until his death in 1929. After 1929, there seems to be no more articles or mentions about Rolls Royce sales or activity in the Asheville Citizen or Asheville Times newspaper archive. In the meantime, we'll keep researching and see what other information we can dig up!


We hope to see you out on the open road in beautiful downtown Asheville!


Sources:


The Asheville Times. (November 25, 1928). Dr. Martin - Rolls Royce Representative in Asheville. Newspapers.com. Retrieved September 12, 2023, from https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-asheville-times-dr-martin-rolls-r/130778107/


Asheville Citizen-Times. (November 11, 2014). J.T. Horney Info . Newspapers.com. Retrieved September 12, 2023, from https://www.newspapers.com/article/asheville-citizen-times-jt-horney-info/131031337/


Asheville Citizen-Times. (June 13, 1926). Horney Hills and Eugene Rankin School. Newspapers.com. Retrieved September 12, 2023, from https://www.newspapers.com/article/asheville-citizen-times-horney-hills-and/131031042/


Asheville Citizen-Times. (April 1, 1925). J.T. Horney - Rolls Royce. Newspapers.com. Retrieved September 12, 2023, from https://www.newspapers.com/article/asheville-citizen-times-jt-horney-ro/131030923/


Asheville Citizen-Times. (October 28, 1942). Obituary for E. REED. Newspapers.com. Retrieved September 12, 2023, from https://www.newspapers.com/article/asheville-citizen-times-obituary-for-e/131322767/


The Tampa Tribune. (January 30, 1959). Julius Teague Horney Obituary. Newspapers.com. Retrieved September 12, 2023, from https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-tampa-tribune-julius-teague-horney-o/131031557/















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