D.C. Area To Lose Midcentury Modern Car Dealership

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Bob Peck Chevrolet will be demolished in 2008. A developer plans to include a replica of the 1964 icon in the new building.

Credit: RoadsideArchitecture.com

A whimsical, midcentury modern building that Arlington, Va., residents have used for decades as a navigational marker will soon disappear.

Known for its flying-saucer-like canopy, Bob Peck Chevrolet, built 1964, will be demolished in the coming weeks, according to Maryland-based owner JGB Companies. Arlington County approved its plans for a mixed-use development on the site in February, and work is set to begin early next year.

Because the building is not yet 50 years old, it is not considered historic and is not an official landmark. Yet preservationists and community members urged JGB Companies to save the circular, glass showroom and reuse it as a restaurant or retail space.

"It's not just a preservation issue, it's a community issue," says Michael Levanthal, historic preservation planner for Arlington County. "It took on a character greater than itself, being a modest building."

According to Lisa Maher, a site planner for the project, the developer determined that the materials used in the building were not durable enough for reuse. Instead, they agreed to build a replica of the showroom as part of their new development.

"We agreed that the showroom had a nostalgic place [in the city]," says Lisa Marier, JBG spokeswoman. Marier says that JBG has salvaged materials from the building, including the diamond-shaped panels that spelled the name of the dealership.

The showroom was an instant icon when it was first built, and it is said that original owner Bob Peck paid architect Anthony Musolino for his design with two new Chevrolets. The dealership closed two years ago, when Donald Peck, Bob's son, sold the 2.3-acre property to JBG. 

Though Leventhal says that the developer was very responsive to the community's concerns, he hopes that the loss will make city planners more aware of preservation issues. "You want to move people philosophically towards preservation."

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Comments

Submitted by Jim at: December 9, 2010
@ Carl - what a horrible and rude thing to say! These old buildings were built with quality and not "slapped" together like todays buildings, which are about the blandest looking things ever! These old designs are neat and brings back lot of old memories for many and a sense of how things were back then for those not around then. As far as the cars go, all cars were like that back then and they did not sell those calls always... by the early 70s they were much cleaner cars and built better than todays cheap plastic crap and as far as loud, with mufflers, they were not. Also you have obviously never owned an old classic American automobile (and/or wasnt around back then to care about memories), or else you would appreciate them. Sorry, but this comment really got to me.

Submitted by Screamin at: January 20, 2010
Would like to try to get a hold of Donald Peck. We just found out our 1968 Chevrolet Corvette was purchased from Bob Peck Chevrolet back in late 1967. We've had the car for 14 years. Wonder if Donald worked there in 1967?

Submitted by Ken at: May 22, 2008
A compromise was met; that's all you can do. The building looks as unique as any building at the 1964 World's Fair; however, not much of those buildings are left standing. Many unique pieces of architecture, although nostalgic, don't stand the test of time; see Las Vegas architecture; the elaborate construction techniques and materials cost more to build; the structure may last 10 years, then demolition begins, and a new one, even bigger and better. Frank Lloyd Wright had many unique designs, and construction problems, cost overruns, in addition to site selection problems, i.e., Fallingwater at Bear Run. Also, notice the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel has water leaks in the glass panels; the gaskets were compromised, poor choice of materials for a unique design, million to repair now; sometimes a rebuild is considerable. We also have some beautiful, nostalgic, and well meaning gifts from other countries, yet by the time maintenance and repair cycles begin we have ourselves an albatross. So yes, these are one of a kind designs, and not always built to last. The developer (JGB) may obtain the original building plans, and include some of the salvaged architectural features from the original building, for a better, and more lasting architectural statement in the community.

Submitted by Carl at: May 21, 2008
Good riddance. The place was a dump and needed to be blasted! Maybe we should put a monument out there for all the people fleeced by the dealership over the years. The owners sold gas guzzling, carbon cloud emitting junk. Glad to see it gone!

Submitted by Todd at: May 14, 2008
Very saddend to hear this news. When will developers learn to incorporate unique, one-of-a-kind vintage buildings into their designs. It is short-sighted planning as people naturally flock to places where creative reuse of older spaces is employed. Everyday we seem to be losing cherished and iconic pieces of our visual history. More reflection and restraint needs to take place, along with innovation and eye an to the future beauty and artful design of America.