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Historic Building Demolished
Van Cleve Motors - An Era Comes to a Close

                                                                                                                                                                                       (photo by Bob Walter)

     Photo captions by Bob Walter: The demolition of an Eatonville landmark - the Van Cleve Motors building, took place Thursday, March 3, to make way for the new. The venerable, old structure epitomized the face of Eatonville for nearly 80 years as a destination to get the best deal on a new Ford. Its longevity was also a testament to Eatonville's core industry - logging and lumber. 
    The building would not go easily. Beneath her white, cinderblock exterior was massive wood frame construction. Dozens of 4x12 beams, some up to 20 feet long, undoubtedly cut in the Eatonville woods and milled at the old Eatonville Lumber Company sawmill, supported the upper floor.
    This photo shows the beams already being stacked for later removal and eventual re-use. Rich Williams is a great-grandson of T.C. Van Eaton's brother-in-law Nate Williams. Rich is married to Ruthie, daughter of "Pappy" and Madge Van Cleve. He wrote the following account of this building's history:

The Rest of the Story...

     by by Rich Williams
     March 5, 2011

     Eatonville saw a piece of their history demolished this week. The old Van Cleve Motors building had been part of Eatonville’s landscape for over eighty years. Like many other commercial enterprises in this area Van Cleve Motors is now just a memory. If only this building could have talked, what a story it would have told.
     George and Madge Van Cleve purchased this building from George’s brother-in-law Clint in 1934. At the time, it was one of two car dealerships in this area. The other was owned by J. H. Galbraith, the owner of Eatonville Lumber Company. For years, Van Cleve Motors sold their Ford cars through Titus Ford in Tacoma, Washington. In 1952 that would change.
     That year, the Ford Dealership in Morton, Washington burned down and was for sale. The Van Cleves bought the dealership and rebuilt it. When the dealership reopened in 1953, the plan was to sell Fords at both Eatonville and Morton under the same franchise. Ford’s policy, however, at that time would not allow a dealer to sell their cars at two different locations under one franchise agreement. Ford Motor Company and Van Cleve quickly solved the problem by establishing a second direct serve franchise for Eatonville.
     Now things were on the move. George’s youngest son Jim and his wife Joan were managing the Morton dealership and George and Madge and their oldest son George Jr. “Lad” were managing Eatonville. Over the years, both dealerships were very successful. Customers from miles around would venture to Eatonville and Morton to buy their Fords from the Van Cleve family. During their visit to Eatonville, George “Pappy” would quote the best deal in the area and George Jr. “Lad” would answer any and all questions about the vehicle they were about to purchase.

Once a Thriving Ford Dealership...

                                                                                                                                                   (Rich Williams courtesy photo)

    The Van Cleve Motors Building (seen here circa early 1970's) was truly a multi-purpose one: Over the years it was a new and used car dealership, as well as a filling station, an auto repair shop, the Mountain View Cafe and even apartments upstairs. Several tenants used the building in the years since the Van Cleve family owned it, including Herm Swanson, Bob and Lenore Callahan, and the last tenant, Eatonville's Youth Connection, which moved to a different location at the end of last year.

Customer Loyalty for Many Reasons...

     While the Van Cleve men were closing the deal, Madge, who reminded everyone of Aunty Bea, would be genuinely interested in getting to know each customer. It wasn’t unusual for her to remember your name and all your kids’ names, every time you visited the dealership. This combination of genuine customer interest, low overhead pricing and an exceptional knowledge of the product was the primary reason for the customer loyalty they enjoyed.
     In 1965, the first full year production of the Ford Mustang, Van Cleve Motors won another sales contest. The prize that year was an all expense paid trip to Ford’s Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. Two highlights of the trip were meeting Ford Motor Company President Lee Iacocca and receiving a brand new Ford Mustang.

Meeting Lee Iacocca at Ford Headquarters...

                                                                                                                                                                     (Rich Williams courtesy photo)

     George "Pappy" and Madge Van Cleve take possession of a new Ford Mustang in 1965, the first year of production for the car. Van Cleve Motors was one of one hundred top Ford dealerships in the nation, all of which won a car. Handing the keys to "Pappy" is company CEO Lee Iacocca.

Family Says "Goodbye" to Old Building
 "That Once Stood Tall"

     In 1972 and 73, the Ford F-100 and F-150 pickups were red hot. Sales were so brisk that Ford Motor Company production could not keep up with demand. At one time during that period, Van Cleve Motors had over 100 pickups on back order. Seeing two fully loaded transports unloading vehicles on Washington Avenue each week was not unusual.
     Although the Van Cleve Ford Dealership in Eatonville is gone, the Van Cleve and Ford Motor Company partnership lives on. Jim Van Cleve Jr., his son James and his mother Joan are running a very successful third generation dealership in Morton, Washington. Winner of 20 Ford Motor Company Presidential Awards their philosophy of selling a quality product coupled with putting the customer first continues to be a winning combination.
     As the family looked at the rubble lying on the ground this week, they were saddened by the finality of this undertaking. They and Eatonville were saying good-bye to a tired, dilapidated old building that once stood tall. Along with our good-bye’s we also thank Pappy, Madge, Lad, Rosemarie, Jim and Joan for all the good memories and for being a meaningful part of this community.

80 Years of History Reduced to Rubble in Two Days

                                                                                                                                                                                  (photo by Bob Walter)

What's left of a landmark is ready to be hauled away.

     What other Eatonville businesses could be found here in the days before Van Cleve Motors arrived? Pat Van Eaton has a 1914 fire insurance company map showing the types of businesses that existed on this stretch of Mashell Avenue back then. The building with the green roof at the far left - now the Tall Timber Cafe - was Charley Williams' Pioneer Garage.
     Next to that the old ice cream parlor (the dark brown building next to the rubble - now the Pour House Pub & Eatery). To the right of the pub was a barber shop, then a cobbler's (shoe repair) shop, next a building or business labeled on the map with the initials, "BL" and "SM," then a storage shed, and somewhere near the right edge of the photo, an east-west spur of the Tacoma & Eastern Railroad came right through town, and led on out to Royce's Mill at the Triangle.
     This section of downtown was all part of T. C. Van Eaton's original, 100-acre homestead. In 1947 Keith Malcom began his business career, when he took over his dad's meat market across the street, on the lot (where the "old Sears Building" now sits)between what are now the Bigfoot Tavern and Motor Worx. Malcom says of the Ford dealership, "I was in about seventh grade when Pappy and Madge Van Cleve bought the place. I think it was an auto repair shop when George took it over."

More Photos Courtesy of Rich Williams

     From left to right, sons Lad and Jim, and dad George "Pappy" Van Cleve pose in front of their business. This photo was taken in the late 1940's.


     A motorist takes in Eatonville's main drag, while a multi-tasking Van Cleve gives his car a fill-up at  the pumps, circa 1940's. (That's owner, George "Pappy" Van Cleve, who, by the looks of his coveralls, is obviously making good use of his time between customers.) The "Open" sign let drivers know they could buy gas at the dealership even during construction to expand it.

The dealership undergoes a cinderblock expansion in the 1940's, during the Van Cleve era. The old building grew and grew.

What took years to build was demolished in a two working days.

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