The American Motors Export Company

September 6, 2011 25 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

If not for the untimely death of Henry Innes, Jacksonville could have blossomed as a major southern automobile manufacturing center. Ninety years later, Metro Jacksonville takes a look at the story of the American Motors Export Company and history of the assembly plant still remaining in Jacksonville's Northside.

American Motors Export Company

The American Motors Export Company was a short lived automobile assembly plant in Durkeeville.  The assembly plant was three blocks west of the old Jacksonville Brewing Company, makers of the famed Jax Beer.

American Motors opened at 801 West 15th Street in 1921 to manufacture the Innes Automobile.  The Innes was an American Automobile built in 1921 by Henry L. Innes in Jacksonville, Florida. It was an attempted revival of the Simms automobile made in Atlanta, GA only in 1920. Henry L. Innes was production manager for The Simms Motor Car Co.  As the company name implied, the Innes was intended mainly for export.  The Innes was an assembled car meaning all parts were purchased elsewhere and assembled in Jacksonville.  Unfortunately, no more than 6 automobiles were built when Henry L. Innes died suddenly at the age of 46.

Two passenger roadsters and five passenger Touring Cars were made along with a small truck. The Innes Touring Car and Roadster featured a "California Top" but advertising claims it to be "Permanent Top". Both automobiles were to be equipped with a four cylinder 18.2 horsepower Supreme engines, Grant-Lees transmission and Columbia axles.

Ulysses A. Lightsey (left) was a director of the American Motors Export Company in 1922.  Image courtesy of

From The Iron Age, August 9, 1920

The Wharton Motors Co., 914 Main Street, Dallas, Tex., has preliminary plans underway for the erection of a new plant in the vicinity of Jacksonville, Fla., for the manufacture of motor trucks.  Bids for construction will be called early in the coming year and the initial works will cost about $650,000.  The company will also build a plant at Dallas, to cost about $400,000.  As expansion is required the plant will be extended until the investment aggregates about $2,000,000.  The company has arranged with the American Motors Export Co., Jacksonville, recently incorporated with a capital of $5,000,000, to handle the marketing of the production.  J.R. Pratt is president of this latter organization: Thomas P. Wharton is head of the Wharton Motor Company. motors export company jacksonville&f=false

Continental Can Company

With the death of its president, Henry Innes, American Motors Export Company would fade out of existence and the assembly plant would be purchased by the Continental Can Company in 1930 for $100,000.  The Continental Can Company was a metal container and packaging manufacturer that was founded in 1904 by Edwin Norton and T.G. Cranwell.  By the mid-1930s, Continental Can had 38 plants in the United States and Cuba.  This Jacksonville operation supplied the nearby Jacksonville Brewing Company with aluminum cans for Jax Beer products.

Howard Feed Mills

Howard Feed Mills employees in 1948.

Howard Feed Mills was founded by Laurence Webb Howard Sr., in 1918.  Mr. Howard was also the developer of the Granada area just south of San Marco.

Lawrence Howard's 1926 era Granada residence still stands.
Exhibiting the Spanish flair which typified Granada, this was the second home completed in the subdivision in 1926.  The multilevel tile roof is pierced by a scrolled parapet at the center of the second story, adding interest and variety to the facade.  Symmetrically arranged arches flank the porch, which is decorated with ceramic tile.  The house was constructed with an enclosed patio and pool at the rear.  It was originally occupied by Lawrence Howard, the principal developer of Granada.
Source: Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage, Page 258

Howard Feed Mills loading docks along Fairfax Street in 1947.

Howard Feed Mills in 1950.

Intersection of Fairfax and West 15th Streets in 1950.

Wood Treaters, LLC.

In 1980, the 12-acre site was taken over by Wood Treaters, LLC.  From 1980 to 2010, Wood Treaters pressure treated utility poles, pilings, heavy timber, and plywood products using the wood treating preservative chromated copper arsenate (CCA).  Wood was pressure treated with CCA and allowed to drip dry on site.  

During operation, stormwater was diverted to ditches along the northern and western property boundaries and drained to a retention pond at the northwestern corner of the property. An overflow pipe is located in the retention pond discharges into Moncrief Creek, a tributary of the Trout River. Low levels of arsenic contamination have been found in Moncrief Creek.  Wood Treaters, LLC. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009.

The former office area of the American Motors Export Company assembly plant.  Now the plant's entire interior is open floor area.

Now 90 years old, the former American Motors Export Company site has enjoyed a storied past and facilitated people and companies that have played a significant role in what Jacksonville has become today.  Now 90 years old, in poor physical condition and labled as an contaminated EPA site, this historic property faces an uncertain future.

American Motor's former rail loading dock area along Fairfax Street.

The initials "AMEC" still exist on the building's front facade, 90 years after the death of it's president, Henry Innes.

Once dominated with a 370-foot-long clerestory, all windows have been removed.

The former American Motors Export Company building is located at 2610 Fairfax Street, between MLK Parkway and West 13th Street.

Article by Ennis Davis