The residents of Highland Park have played a leading role in downtown business ever since the neighborhood began. Take, for example Mr. Gene H. Welborn. He and his wife Edith Valeta lived at 935 Virginia Avenue, a pretty, brick Colonial with a stylish porte-cochère on the southeast side. They built the house in April of 1926.
Mr. Welborn owned the local Dodge dealership. That explains his car port at home. He started selling Dodges and Graham trucks in 1922 at 14-16-18 Main Street, which stood on a block of Main that is now gone. Welborn’s Main Street address happened to be the location of the last hitching post left in Hamilton. The post stood in the way of drivers opening their car doors, so away went the post much to the consternation of the Hamilton Daily News.
935 Virginia is a luxurious, but sensible house, not unlike the Dodge cars Welborn sold. The first floor rooms are thoroughly trimmed in gum wood. A carved stone fireplace mantel perfectly matches the large and gracious living room. The house, of course, has a sun room, but with the added feature of its own fireplace. Behind the house is an enviable two-car, brick garage.
Welborn picked a lucky time to be a Dodge dealer. In 1928, Chrysler Corporation bought the Dodge Brothers Company. Under Chrysler care, Dodge prospered while other pioneer cars failed during the Great Depression. Dodge dealers also started to sell Chrysler’s popular, low-price Plymouths. In 1930, only three months after the stock market crash, Welborn expanded and moved his dealership to downtown proper at 321 Market Street.
In 1938, Gene Welborn died of a heart attack on the showroom floor of his dealership. He is buried at Rose Hill Memorial Park.
What happened to the Dodge dealership after that isn’t clear. The building on Market Street is gone. However, Welborn’s handsome house in Highland Park is still here. Stroll by sometime and imagine Mr. Welborn in a posh 1931 Dodge Eight pulling through his porte-cochère after a busy day of selling cars in downtown Hamilton.