Kernersville History: Stuart Motor Company

By Kelly Hargett

The building that currently sits at 109 East Mountain Street in downtown Kernersville was built by Ned Stuart in 1924. The spot was an ideal location for the new and booming automobile repair business. J.R. Stuart & Son had been in business in Kernersville since 1920. Ned and his father J.R. Stuart had previously operated their business out of a location on Bodenhamer Street. J.R. had 42 years of machine shop experience, working in Winston-Salem before moving to Kernersville. J.R.’s son, Ned, had specialized in auto repair, gaining experience in Knoxville, Tennessee, Richmond, VA, and Asheville before joining his father in his garage in Kernersville. By 1920, J.R. and Ned expanded their interests and became dealers in hardware, farm machinery, and automobile supplies while operating a modern garage.

By 1924, Ned Stuart had purchased land on East Mountain Street, next to where the old inn at the crossroads had sat and began work to build a new garage. J.R. Stuart remained open as a hardware store, while Ned’s business was focused on automobile work. The new, two story building was brick, and designed with an eye toward future endeavors, with large windows facing East Mountain Street. Ned had recently organized the Town of Kernersville’s first fire department. Before this, everyone in town responded to fires, but with only a bucket brigade and volunteers pulling water from wells, fires had routinely ravaged homes and businesses in Kernersville. In 1923, Ned organized the Kernersville Volunteer Fire Department, and the town purchased a 1923 La France fire truck for $6,500. Today, you can see this same truck sitting inside the new Ladder 42 Fire Station on Hwy 66 in Kernersville. Ned Stuart would serve as the Town’s first fire chief for many years, and he organized the volunteers and their training while housing the new fire truck in his garage until a station was completed in 1928.

By 1927, the Stuarts had opened Kernersville’s first automobile show room. By 1930, Stuart Motor Company was the city’s first Ford Dealership. Ned, continuing to expand his business, soon purchased a Model T tow truck and added towing and recovery to the list of services he offered. The Stuart Motor Company remained in business until 1986. After this, the building was repurposed. The front of the building was converted into office space, while the garage portion remained unused until 2004, when a local attorney purchased the building and converted the space into his law office.

Stuart Motor Company has a historical marker dedicated to the building. The marker reads as follows:

Stuart Motor Company Est. 1926 by Ned R. & Annabel Stuart
The building was originally opened as Kernersville’s First Auto Showroom and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Due to the many hats Ned Stuart wore while serving the town it was used as: The First Hudson Essex & Ford Dealer, Office of the Fire Chief, Police Commission, Town Commissioner, Head of the School Board, Town Building Inspector, and Civil Defense Warden in WWII.

The building served as a town meeting place for many civic groups in the early years. The apartments above not only housed the Stuart Family, Ned, Annabel, sons Ned Jr., & Robert, but served as the first homes for many of the towns founding Fathers.

Restored in 1986 by Ned Jr., wife June & son Bryan. The Stuart Motor Company building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1988.

If you are interested in learning more Kernersville History and the haunted stories of the past, visit KernersvilleMuseum.org/ShopMuseum to purchase your copy of Haunted Kernersville. If you have questions or would like to learn more about The Kernersville Museum call us at 336-497-4869.

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