The History Of The Garage

The History Of The Garage

The 13 Year Gap – The History Of The Garage

Did you ever ponder the age-old question: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” You did? Well, what about this one: “Which came first, the motor car or the garage?” Easier question, huh? But there’s some facts to go through before I confirm the obvious answer. So pay attention, we’ll need to go back to Henry Ford’s day to start telling this tale.

Time was that the only way to travel involved one or more horses and a carriage. Unfortunately the invention of Ford’s Model-T automobile put the skids under the horse and buggy industry — big style. Anyone with horse and buggy stocks and shares had thrown themselves off a high building years before the Wall Street crash.

Despite the outbreak of automobile fever this invention brought about, forward-thinking drivers who yearned for an outbuilding in which to house their new toys would have to wait 13 years before their wish came true

The horse and carriage — the previous hot fashion accessory, status symbol and whizzo mode of transport — were usually housed in the same barn. Which sort of made sense. However the rich, who were the only class that could afford a Ford, didn’t much fancy their shiny new contraptions smelling of horse poop! So a market opened up for dedicated outbuildings to keep the iron chariots of the well-to-do out of the rain and away from horses altogether.

Garage from the 1920's
Garage from the 1920’s

The earliest garages were barn-like. No surprise there. With barn-style doors that opened outwards. Drivers — lazy as always — had to get out of their cars to open them and for this reason, didn’t like them. There had to be something better. Something easier. And there was!


Early garages were basically single level parking lots, some in public ownership, some privately-owned, charging $5 a week for a space along side another bunch of cars, in a garage maintained on the owner’s dime. This worked out great until, around the end of the first decade of the 20th century demand overwhelmed supply and there were far too many cars for existing garages to cope with. Dedicated garages adjacent to home became the norm.

A 1948 advertisement for radio controlled garage door openers.
A 1948 advertisement for radio controlled garage door openers.



Drivers had to wait until after the First World War before they could open a garage door remotely (via a key pad located on a post at the end of their driveway). I don’t mean they waited at the foot of their drive for the duration of the war. It’s just that you couldn’t get one until then. Was it worth the wait? Who knows.

However, electric garage door openers, invented by C.G Johnson did not become popular until the Era Meter Company of Chicago marketed

the sectional overhead door in 1921. Its popularity led to Johnson’s Overhead Door Company adding an electric garage door opener to their 1926 catalogue. After which, drivers who once had to man-handle heavy wooden doors before parking their cars under cover could now return to being lazy, forever.

Choosing the right garage door

Choosing the right garage door

There’s a set of garage doors somewhere with your name on them. But how to find them?

Drive past any modern home and you will notice how garage doors form part of the overall appeal of the property. Or detract from it in some cases. Choosing the right style for you is important and right now you are very much spoiled for choice. Given the bewildering array of options available in today’s market, how do you decide which style is right for you? As with any product, the main considerations are cost, design, durability and maintenance. Here is an article we wrote on common parts that need replaced over the lifetime of your garage door.


Though each person will have their own take on what’s stylish, the choice of material is fairly straightforward. Steel or wood? Think steel is the obvious choice over wood for strength and durability? Think again. Granted, steel is widely available but remember it is liable to rust if the outer skin is breached, following a collision for example.

Aluminum is still around too. It requires little attention throughout its lifespan and cannot rust (good for houses in coastal locations where corrosion can be an issue). It’s light, making it useful for manual opening. On the downside it will show dents more readily than steel.

Commonly, house owners like to match the look of their garage doors with their windows, which makes sense. It gives the property a coherent look and feel. Beyond the white trim and white door style of previous years the range of material available nowadays will surprise you. Glass is available for example!

Of course, if you don’t mind the effort of staining or painting, consider wood (cedar is a popular choice). You needn’t get a solid wooden door—veneers are available at much less cost and can look just as nice. Finally, you might consider fibreglass. It’s highly durable. Careful though, it’s liable to crack when struck with force.

Door type

Material isn’t the only decision you’ll need to make. You’ll also need to consider what type of door you want. You have a choice: The up-and-over, sectional, roller, and side-hinged. All of these choices have advantages.

  • Up and over

Easily installed, especially if you opt for the steel fixing frames and seals which can be purchased for these doors.

  • Single Panel

    Is space an issue? Using track hardware, the single panel style allows for cars to park closer to the garage than other other style. This isgarage door hardware because track type garage doors have significantly less arc during the raising and lowering of the garage door compared to other styles that utilize the jamb type hardware. Single panel doors are perfect for houses with a small driveway.


  • Sectional

If you’re after the best door type for insulation and security, look no further.

  • Roller

A popular door type worldwide. Capable of fitting to almost any garage door opening.

  • Side-hinged

This style is popular with those who use their garages as store rooms. The doors are easily opened, making the retrieval of bits and pieces like the lawnmower and various garden tools relatively simple.


Modern manufacturing has made it possible and at reasonable cost to adapt your garage to reflect Victorian, Georgian or Colonial style. Just ensure that the style you choose matches the rest of your home, especially the windows and doors. You may also opt for Ranch or 50s style. And of course contemporary designs give you a virtually free hand with style — frosted or pebbled glass for instance.

Other considerations include insulation and whether or not installation might be complicated or simple.

Whatever your choices, there is ample scope in today’s market for you to get exactly the doors that suit you.