Garage History Lesson 101

The Development and Evolution of Home Garages in the U.S.

Believe it or not, home garages have only been around for just over 100 years. So what turn of events led to the residential garage structure going from a new idea to luxury, and finally, to a home asset? Let’s dive into the history, shall we?

How It Started

First, let’s look at why garages were needed in the first place. In the early 1900s, horses and buggies were the main source of individual transportation in North America, which were kept in detached buildings called carriage houses, gatehouses, and outbuildings. It wasn’t until the 1908 Ford Model T was created, making automobiles more accessible to the public, that the need for more feasible and accessible parking became evident.

A Growing Appeal

As cars started to grow in popularity, early car owners would park their vehicles alongside their buggy. During this transition period, carports and portable garage structures were also utilized for those who could afford them. Parking lots with monthly fees were an affordable solution through 1910, right around the time when car sales really started to pick up and the need for secured car parking grew.

The First Overhead Garage Door & Opener Invented

Cars quickly grew in popularity and became the “must-own” item in America. By 1920, the market was poised for a practical car storage and parking solution. C.G. Johnson designed the overhead garage door based off of early architectural attempts at the garage structure, which had weighty and inconvenient barn-style doors. In 1926, Johnson also invented the first electric door opener, which made it easier to open the heavy wood doors at the time.

Evolution of the Home Garage

By the 1930s, garage doors had evolved to meet better design, quality, and operational needs of homeowners. And by the 1940s, most homes were designed and built with attached garages. Legislation also made owning a car more appealing with the passing of the Federal Road Act and the Federal Highway Act. As more homeowners purchased vehicles, they became aware of the value (and safety) garages provided. Thus, the bigger they became!

While the construction of garages was booming, electric garage door openers took a bit to catch on. Over time, improved safety features were added, paving the way for the eye sensor models we commonly use today. Fast-forward to 2023, the garage door opener has evolved to adopt quieter technology, featuring energy efficiency and innovative designs that allow modern users to control their garages from their smartphones.

Alongside the growth in the garage door opening mechanism, the doors themselves improved in quality over the decades. In the 1970s, the material used for garage doors shifted from primarily wood to steel, then eventually including fiberglass and aluminum doors options as well.

In the last few decades alone, there has been significant advancement in garage door options, both in terms of quality and customization. This progress provides modern homeowners with countless choices and styles. Interestingly, the classic carriage house aesthetic has become a highly sought-after style among those investing in new garage doors today.

Garage floors have also seen an evolution over the years. What started out as a basic, grey concrete surface has become a canvas for more weather-tight, quality-enhancing floor coatings such as Epoxy and the superior polyaspartic floor coating.

How the Garage Has Shaped Culture

You cannot dive into the history of the garage without acknowledging the many businesses and bands that made their humble start in a garage. From the Beatles to The Who, Nirvana, and even The Ramones, “garage bands” have played a huge role in our American music and culture over the years.

Additionally, widely successful companies like Harley-Davidson, Disney Studios, Amazon, Google, and more all started in garages. This structure originally designed to fill the need of the growing automotive industry opened up a world of possibilities beyond storage. This ideal and appeal of garages still reigns true today.

100 Years of Garages…Here’s to Many More!

This retrospective overview of garage history reveals just how much this structure has enhanced our American real estate and influenced our social culture. And 100 years later, garages continue to be a sought-after home amenity!

J.D. Griffiths was founded in 1947, right as the automotive and garage markets were booming. We’ve evolved and grown with the times to bring the latest and greatest detached garage structures and overhead doors to our customers over the years. We would be honored to serve you in our 77th year as a garage-building company.

Request a FREE quote to get your dream garage built in 2024. J.D. Griffiths is ready to work with you!