The History of Modern Residential Garages

Ever wonder where this whole garage idea came from and the history behind that? Garages have been around for a long time since the Ancient Egyptians and so on, we’ll go over the history and a timeline (somewhat) to what is now modern residential garages.

The Stable

People didn’t always get around with cars. They used to get around with horses if they could afford that.

Many people didn’t have any kind of garage attached to their home for thousands of years. If they lived in an urban environment, they most likely wouldn’t have needed one anyway because they could get around on foot. If they lived in the country, they could probably have some sort of barn or stable, separate from the house.

Actually what people had before garage’s were stabled. A stable a is a place for keeping horses, as you might know from watching the Kentucky Derby every May. Look at some of the palaces from yesteryear, and you’ll see that stables were kept far away from the house.

Tangentially, palaces are a good example, because while common, everyday homes of wood, plaster, and thatched roofs have come and gone, brick and stone palaces or castles have stood the test of time, offering us a glimpse into the past and seeing how the garage/stable component fit in with the home.

modern residential garages

Neigh, Neigh…Stay Away

As mentioned, stables were kept away from the dwelling part of the residence for a few reasons. One is that horses are loud, especially if they’re hungry or fidgety. Two is for sanitary reasons.

Horses also need space for prancing around and doing their thing. Tossing the mane, stomping the feet, and traveling majestically in a circle. That said, the stable was often separated from the home by a courtyard or circular driveway, or a field.

When you needed to go somewhere, the liveryman or the coachman would grab your horse and carriage from the stables. He’d pull up to the front door, and let you into the carriage. Perhaps if you were all-powerful, he’d get down on all fours and let you step on his back up into the carriage. 

And that’s how it was for thousands of years. Home is where I live, and my ride lives in the stables. When I need my ride, it pulls up to my door.

Car Industrial Revolution

Then a few things changed. First came the industrial revolution, and the invention of trains. People still needed horse’s however, so stables continued to remain a feature of the home. Then about two or three hundred years later, a new invention came about from the progress ignited by the technical revolution which yielded steam power and from there, the car was born.

Unlike horses, cars don’t need to prance around. They don’t defecate excessively (or at all, really), and they don’t make noise unless you’re driving them.

So for many people, at least those who could afford a car, the stable became a place to store your vehicle. It was still separate from the house, and it was usually called a motor house. Prior to 1914, these motor houses were often prefabricated units of timber.

This prefab nature made sense since many people probably didn’t have something set up already to house their vehicle. Stables might have been too small if they even had a stable on their property.

Cars are Here to Stay…So are Garages

So it was for a few decades until American architects began to envision something different. The architect Charles Harrison Townsend responded to some of the features of the automobile by suggesting changes in the design of the garage.

Townsend suggested walls made of glazed brick to make washing and cleaning easier, low air vents (because gas fumes are heavier and stay low to the ground) and drains to help eliminate the buildup of various car-related fluids.

Over time, the garage came into being, a transition from portable structures kept apart from the home (relying on the stable idea as a precedent) to a more permanent-looking structure. Granted, these garages were also still separate from the home, but once architects and designers realized that the automobile was here to stay, they started making the modern residential garages more integrated component of home design.

modern garage with brick siding

The Baby Boomers and Suburbia

After WWII, many soldiers, sailors, and pilots returned home to rebuild a new life in America. The United States was prospering, and business was booming in all areas, including construction.

With increasing prosperity, more and more people could afford cars, and a new home in the suburbs—a newly developing concept of homes within a housing development outside an already extant town or city.

Of course, with a home and a car, people would need a convenient place to store their vehicle. Lot sizes were smaller than your typical aristocratic plot of land on Long Island or Rhode Island, so it was only natural to move the garage closer to the home.

In warm climates, residents would be fine with a carport: a covered space to protect their vehicle from the sun and other elements. But in colder climates, designers quickly realized that a garage would be a necessary feature for homeowners.

Take a Look

If you look around at the homes in your neighborhood, you’ll probably see a reflection of what we’ve outlined here. Older homes often have detached garages, and in cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, these garages are often separated from home by a small yard or courtyard.

If you live in a warmer climate, you’ll see homes with carports more frequently. Of course, like anything else in home design, nothing is set in stone, so an older home in either type of climate could have a carport or a garage.

Newer homes on the other hand, almost always have modern residential garages. In part, this is due to the increasing way that homeowners use their garage as an extra storage space. Modern residential garages today offer great opportunities for storage solutions and recreational activities.

Homeowners in America have seen increased standards of living over the years, it’s only natural that modern residential garages become part and parcel of the home itself. Also, if the garage is attached to the home itself, it’s often cheaper to build because it’s already sharing walls and a roof with the house.

There you have it, a brief history of how the garage came to be. These days it’s almost always a given that a home will have a garage, but as you’ve seen, it wasn’t always so.

Danley’s has built over 100,000 custom garage styles and sizes since 1959. They are the most trusted garage builder in Chicago and Chicagoland suburbs. Speak to a product specialist and get a free quote today.



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