The 100th anniversary of Chevrolet was the catalyst for a new exhibit at the Asahel Wright House in Centerville, exploring the legacy of Richard H. Grant Sr., a Daytonian who led Chevrolet to its iconic status. The name Grant Park, and many other areas in Centerville and Washington Twp., are also tied to Grant, whose home was Normandy Farms.
“He gave so much to our community, we felt it was a good time to present an exhibit that honors his legacy to Washington Twp. and Centerville,” explained Amy Goldman, education coordinator for the Centerville Washington Twp. Historical Society.
The exhibit consists of about 40 photographs, various written pieces and maps. His mansion, built in 1930, lives on today as Normandy Church, and much of the land was given to the park district to create Grant Park and Grant Nature Center.
The historical society also has published a book about Grant’s legacy, titled Normandy Farms, The Land and Legacy of Richard H. Grant, Sr. The 215-page large-format, soft-cover book details the life and times of Grant and his family, and their involvement in the community. The book that was edited by Celia Elliott, trustee emeritus of the CWTHS and the daughter-in-law of Normandy Farms manager Russell Elliott.
A native of Ipswich, Mass., Grant came to Dayton and began working for NCR as a salesman, followed Charles Kettering to Delco, then the merger of Delco-Frigidaire, and soon General Motors was in the picture.
Grant was hired to lead Chevrolet sales past Ford. In the first four years of his tenure, Grant’s sales team saw sales nearly double to $4 billion for Chevrolet, all while he was still living in the area, taking the train to Detroit on Sundays and returning here on Fridays.
Grant was then placed in charge of sales for all of General Motors and spent the next 16 years leading the automaker to greatness.
Fortune magazine referred to Grant as “The Little Giant” and called him “one of the greatest salesmen this nation has produced.”
During the depression, it was Grant who developed the BOP Sales Co., which allowed Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiacs to be sold by the same dealers in a uniform manner. The elimination of duplication solidified the sales and increased profitability for GM. These successes brought Grant to a seat on the board of directors of GM, a seat he held until 1953.
During all of his travels for GM, Grant always lived in Dayton, and operated his Jersey Dairy at Normandy Farms that delivered fresh milk daily to more than 500 customers.
The exhibit can be seen Tuesday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Asahel Wright House at 25 N. Main St. in Centerville.
“We haven’t determined how long the exhibit will be up, but it will definitely run all of the spring, and the book can purchased here also,” Goldman said. “We can also make arrangements for special viewings for groups by contacting the historical society.”
To learn more about the historical society, go online to www.mvcc.net/centerville/histsoc, or call (937) 291-2223.
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