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In the Shop: 1926

In the Shop: 1926

"Semmes Motor Co. garage, Washington." The LOC says 1916 or 1917 but the nearest car has a 1926 license plate. View full size. National Photo Company.


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Ideal Auto Service

The Semmes brothers (Raphael and Charles W.) opened the Congressional Garage at 623 Pennsylvania Avenue SE in 1910. Originally dealers for Wilcox trucks, they later became the major dealership for Dodge trucks and cars in Washington. They also ran several bus lines between Washington and southern Maryland.

The level of service appears quite progressive in regards to customer relations and standardized costs as evidenced by the following article:

Washington Post Nov 23, 1919

Ideal Auto Service

Semmes Motor Co. Plans Up-to-Date Methods for Breakdowns.

When alterations now under way and those under contemplation on the new Semmes Motor Company Service building at 613 G street [NW], purchased last week by C.W. Semmes, are completed, it is said the building will be one of the most complete of its kind in the country.

Six stories in height, it is fireproof throughout. Each floor contains 18,000 square feet of floor space. The two top floors are a present occupied by the government. The remaining four are occupied by the Semmes Motor Company, as a service station for Dodge cars, with the exception of a limited amount of space on the first floor, which is used by the Semmes Motor Line. A car owner can bring his car into this building, and no matter what he wishes to have done to it, his request can be complied with, without having to send the machine or any part of it out of the building.

The idea of service is perhaps carried a little further by this company than any other in Washington. On the first floor there is a finely appointed waiting room and information desk, as well as cashier. The owner brings his car into the building, is met by an employ to make note of what he wishes to have done to the car. At the same time the customer is informed just how much each job on the car will amount to. The cost system of each job on a Dodge car has been arrived at after careful study of the various kinds of work that is to be done on one of these machines.
The cost of parts of materials, if any were necessary, was known in advance, and the computing of the price to the customer for what he wanted done to his car has been worked out that is today a simple matter. If the task can be finished in a few minutes the customer can wait in the courtesy room, where he will find newspapers and magazines to help pass the time more quickly. If unable to wait, or the task is one that takes time, if he or she wishes, they will be sent home or to any part of the city they wish to go in a Dodge limousine, a courtesy car it is called the Semmes Motor Company. When the car is finished, if the customer wishes, the courtesy car is sent to bring him to get his or her own machine. The completed car is brought to the door of the courtesy room and the customer can be on his way.

For the services of the courtesy car no charge is made. Once in the building, the floor to which the customer's car is sent depends entirely upon the work to be done. The second floor is given over largely to heavy work, while on the third floor is the paint and trimming shop. The fourth floor contains the stockroom and the repair and adjusting departments. On the far side is located the blacksmith shop, a radiator department and test block for working on motors that have been overhauled and consequently very stiff. On the third floor is also an employees' lunchroom, where coffee is furnished free and other edibles furnished at actual cost. This is a facility that every employee and even C.W. Semmes, president of the firm, avails himself of.
The building is the largest service station in Washington and one of the largest for an individual car in the United States.

Full Service

Semmes Motor Company was a very busy place. They had thier own radio station, WHAQ (AM 833). In the late teens they ran a bus service. They sold Dodge trucks, too.


At first I thought, "Whoa! That's some incredible photorealistic painting that somebody did on the side of that truck!" Then I realized that the words "The Hecht…" are on the side of the panel truck that's behind a pickup style truck, and the "photo" is really a guy standing there.

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