At dawn of automobile age, San Antonio was a hub of sales, servicing

Both my grandfather and great-uncle, Pablo Cortez and Taylor Cortez, worked for the Winerich Auto Sales company in San Antonio during the 1920s and ’30s. They both painted cars. I figure that you may find more information about this company, which was located at the corner of Broadway and Third streets across the street from the current Herweck’s Art Supply store. The art store told me that their building originally housed a motor sales company as well. Attached are two files: one of a list of employees and their “obligation to Overland Owners” and one photo of my grandfather and great-uncle.

San Antonio was an early adopter of automotive technology and became a regional hub for dealerships and auto-repair shops. According to a timeline on the website of the Texas Transportation Museum, the city’s first battery-powered “horseless carriage” was delivered in 1899 to a livery service on Commerce Street, followed two years later by San Antonio’s first vehicle with a gasoline engine, a Haynes Apperson.

(To view the timeline, go to txtransportationmuseum.org/history and click on the “Transportation History” tab, then on “S.A. Transportation Timeline” and finally on “San Antonio Automotive History,” under “Related Links” on the righthand rail.)

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Typically, the newfangled machines arrived in crates, assembly required. The idea of buying a car off the showroom floor or lot came later. The earliest manufacturers’ agencies allowed customers to order the model they wanted, and independent shops provided replacement parts and repair services.

Both of the buildings you mention – the current Herweck’s at 300 Broadway and the former Winerich Motor Sales, across the street at 301 Broadway (with some address changes due to expansions and renumbering) – were anchors of San Antonio’s first automotive district.

Your relatives worked at a business formerly known as the Woodward Carriage Co., chartered on Nov. 29, 1905, by D.J. Woodward and Frank Winerich. Located on St. Mary’s Street, the company hedged its bets on the new technology by selling both buggies and automobiles, as well as harnesses “made from the very best leathers” and a “handsome line of lap robes,” as advertised in the San Antonio Light, Dec. 28, 1905.

With Winerich as president, the company moved into Rambler sales. It changed its name in 1918 to Winerich Motor Sales Co., dealing in new and used cars. The old stock of horse-drawn carriages was sold off at a discount while a new Winerich Building was constructed at Avenue C (later Broadway) and Third Street, purpose-built with space for new and used cars as well as a repair shop.

Western Auto, shown here during Fiesta 1950, occupied the ground floor of 300 Broadway (now Herweck’s Art Supply) for 30 years. Winerich Motor Sales, formerly the Woodward Carriage Co., moved in 1915 into the building at 301 Broadway as one of the first and longest-lived auto dealers in the city.

Western Auto, shown here during Fiesta 1950, occupied the ground floor of 300 Broadway (now Herweck’s Art Supply) for 30 years. Winerich Motor Sales, formerly the Woodward Carriage Co., moved in 1915 into the building at 301 Broadway as one of the first and longest-lived auto dealers in the city.

Courtesy UTSA Special Collections

As advertised in the Light on March 7, 1915, the area where your relatives Pablo and Taylor Cortez worked was singled out for special notice: “Our painting and trimming departments are in charge of thorough experts.” City directories list both brothers as painters from the mid-to-late 1920s, which would fit with their signing a pledge (or “obligation”) to owners of Overland automobiles. Overland was one of the early makes Winerich sold, and it was a standalone company for only five years, said Hugh Hemphill, author of “San Antonio on Wheels: The Alamo City Learns to Drive.” Acquired by Willys in 1908, “The Overland was the premium brand but was deleted in 1926.”

Beginning in 1922, Winerich sold Studebakers and became one of the Indiana carmaker’s leading Texas dealers through the 1950s. The founder, who died on Oct. 15, 1940, was succeeded as president by his son, William H. Winerich. In 1956, the company moved to a larger new building at 1822 Broadway, a location described in advertisements as “the heart of Automobile Row.”

At this location, Winerich sold the first Edsel in San Antonio through an unusual arrangement with the Ford Motor Co., which introduced its much-hyped midsize model through its own network of 1,200 dealers nationwide. A volume dealer for the time, Winerich had the space at its new premises to take delivery and keep the ill-fated Edsels – manufactured for only two years – shrouded in secrecy until Sept. 4, 1957, the national rollout date.

The city’s first Edsel buyer was insurance broker Pete Heilbron, who took delivery of a four-door Edsel Pacer, sold “soon after the new cars went on display,” as reported in an undated, unidentified newspaper clipping from Hemphill’s collection. By the following summer, Winerich was advertising a “very unusual sale” of unclaimed Edsels at dealer invoice prices, “the exact amount we have paid the Ford Motor Co.”

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Did Weinrich’s gamble on the Edsel – plagued by mechanical failures and an unpopular design – bring down a family business that had lasted for most of the time San Antonio had cars? Maybe the rejected brand played a role, since by early 1959, Turbiville Lincoln Salon had replaced Winerich at its spacious modern showroom.

The building at 300 Broadway, across the street from the original Winerich’s location, saw some changes, too. It housed a Buick agency and a Packard distributor before welcoming Western Auto Parts Store No. 1 (out of three in downtown San Antonio) in 1929. The retailer was still there to remodel the building nearly a decade later, enlarging the display space for “many new lines of merchandise” and adding an entrance for drive-in service, reported the San Antonio Express of June 5, 1938. With other tenants on the building’s second floor, Western Auto lasted through the 1950s and gave way to Herweck’s in the early ‘60s, after many other automotive businesses had moved beyond downtown.

City directories show that Pablo Cortez moved on, too, becoming a machine operator in the ’30s and working at Lackland AFB by 1951, while Taylor Cortez was listed as a painter or foreman for Weinrich for much longer.

As featured in the San Antonio Light, March 7, 1915, the Woodward Carriage Co., newly opened in the “new Winerich Building” at Avenue C (later Broadway) and Third Street, sold new cars including the Overland. Winerich Motor Sales sold the first Edsel in San Antonio from their 1822 Broadway location, here shown promoting the Sept. 4, 1957, date the new model went on sale.

As featured in the San Antonio Light, March 7, 1915, the Woodward Carriage Co., newly opened in the “new Winerich Building” at Avenue C (later Broadway) and Third Street, sold new cars including the Overland. Winerich Motor Sales sold the first Edsel in San Antonio from their 1822 Broadway location, here shown promoting the Sept. 4, 1957, date the new model went on sale.

Courtesy of Hugh Hemphill

A photograph of the “many veteran employees in (Winerich’s) large staff,” published in the Light, May 27, 1928, includes Taylor Cortez but not Pablo (sometimes known as Paul) among 51 employees recognized when the staff was awarded a Studebaker certificate of merit. Under the direction of Taylor Cortez, says the story, “the paint shop is one of the most efficient operated by any automobile firm.” Taylor was “an authority on ultracellulose finishes (lacquer)” and “never (let) a car leave the shop without a durable, mirrorlike finish.”

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Katherine T. Burrows

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