The Arrival of the Automobile


In 1900 E. C. Adams, drove one of the first automobiles down the city’s streets. Until then, horseflesh, the bicycle (or “wheels”), electric streetcar, interurban and the railway were the primary means of transportation for Battle Creek residents. Most citizens lived near their jobs, which helped maintain the concentration of industrial workers along the riverfront area and the Seventh-day Adventist employees of the Sanitarium and the Review and Herald Publishing Company on the west end.


The convenience and independence offered by the automobile changed individual habits – and the face of the city. Free to move further away from jobs and stores, workers began migrating away the immediate neighborhoods of their employment. Filling stations appeared on every major corner and auto dealerships sprang up around town. By the early 1920s building permits filed with the city show that almost a third of the city’s homeowners were building garages next to their homes.