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Building a Business

Goodloe Yancey Jr. stepped out the front door of his home early in the morning and looked off to the west, taking in the view. He and his wife, Charm, lived on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta, a boulevard that had been recently described by the Atlanta Constitution as “one of the finest streets in the city” with “some of the handsomest residences.”

The tree-lined avenue had been built with two thirty-foot-wide paved strips separated by a right-of-way for the trolley line that rolled out from Peachtree Street. Goodloe and Charm’s home sat on a rise at an easy bend in the road, half a block east of the Southern Railway trestle. Below them, a quarter-mile to the west, lay a little valley where the Ponce de Leon Spring had once flowed. There was an amusement park with a Ferris wheel and other rides in that valley on one side of Ponce (where Sears Roebuck would later build a retail store and catalog distribution center), and the home of the Atlanta Crackers baseball team on the other. Looking farther south from his front door, Goodloe could see the emerging skyline of Atlanta just above the treetops.

But most mornings he didn’t notice the Ferris wheel or Ponce de Leon Park or the skyline. The first thing Goodloe Yancey Jr. saw when he looked out from his front step was the brand-new Ford Motor Company assembly plant across the street. That beautiful brick building, with its terra cotta and colored-tile adornments, represented the future for the United States, the Southeast, the state of Georgia, Atlanta, and Goodloe Yancey and his brother Earle.

In 1913 Henry Ford had installed his first moving assembly line in Highland Park, Michigan, to build the Model T. With his success there he decided to decentralize his production operations and build several assembly plants. In 1914, the same year Goodloe and his brother Earle established a business to sell tools and equipment for constructing and maintaining roads, Ford began building its four-story assembly plant on Ponce de Leon Avenue—less than a hundred yards from Goodloe and Charm’s front door. When completed, the Southeast headquarters for Ford sales and shipping would include an automobile showroom in the front of the building and an assembly line in the back. The Atlanta plant soon was producing more than 22,000 Model T automobiles annually, or more than seventy new cars every day. All those cars required roads to carry them from place to place, and all those roads required maintenance. Goodloe and Earle Yancey had the answer.

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Foundations 1914 - 1938
Era Stories