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The History of the Garage

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garage door
The modern garage has an interesting origin story
Photo: Scott Donald via Pixabay

It’s easy to take modern garages for granted. But a brief overview of how it has evolved over the years can give you a newfound appreciation for this space.

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Origin of the garage

historic detached garage
Historical garages were often detached from the house due to safety concerns
Photo: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons via CC

In the early days of the automobile, owners typically stored their vehicles away from their homes in the stables of their property. According to Art in America magazine’s Mark Pieterson, some insurance carriers and city officials thought that storing a car in an attached garage was unsafe.

That changed in 1908, however, when Frank Lloyd Wright built the first attached garage in Chicago. Per Pieterson, he built it in response to the cultural shift into industrialism that took place during this time.

Evolution of the garage

usonian house frank lloyd wright Goetsch_Winckler_House,_2009
Frank Lloyd Wright helped make Usonian houses with carports a U.S. trend in the 1930s
Photo: Jaydec via CC

At first, many car owners were hesitant to adopt the attached garage trend. Around the 1920s, however, more Americans started buying vehicles. This was in large part due to the passing of the Federal Road Act and Federal Highway Act in 1916 and 1921, as Garage Living reports. Because more people wanted a more convenient place to store their cars, garages became more prevalent.

The 1920s is also when C.G. Johnson developed both the overhead door and the automatic garage door opener. Then, in the 1930s, Wright debuted the carport as part of his Usonian house design.

In 1941, attached garages that connected into the house became a trend. By the 1950s, the real estate industry started mass-producing garages as essential parts to suburban houses.

Wood was the material of choice for garage doors, according to Garage Living, however manufacturers started experimenting with low-maintenance steel doors in the 1970s. Fiberglass and aluminum doors soon followed.

Around the same time, Americans started using garages in alternative ways. Garage bands started to emerge in the 60s and 70s. This trend birthed artists like The Sonics, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Syndicate of Sound, The Who, Nirvana, and Metallica.

Others used garages as temporary workspaces to launch businesses. Mattel, Google, and Apple Inc. are just a few companies that had their start in a garage.

Garages today

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Photo: The News Wheel

Presently, garages come in a wider range of styles and forms than ever before. Some car owners expand their home’s garage to accommodate a large SUV or a small collection of classic cars. Others use it as an extra living space such as an exercise room, guest room, or children’s play area. Regardless of what your garage looks like or how you use it though, it’s one contemporary invention worth celebrating.

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