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The Rise of the Garage in America

Even before I became a Realtor, I’ve been obsessed with houses. Just fascinated by why and when styles and building processes were influenced and why and by whom.

And, not just the statement features…even something as simple and mundane as the garage.

Modern day garage with car

Garages have come a long way and seen a lot of changes since the early 1900s. The garage came into commonplace along with the automobile…and like a lot of things in the United States, the automobile has shaped another major aspect of life in America.

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Individuals realized they needed a space to store their vehicles and protect them from the elements. Soon, people realized that carriage houses and barns (once used to store horses and carriages) lent themselves very well to the storage of automobiles. Derived from the French work “garer” (to store)…the garage was born. Entrepreneur minded individuals would even rent out spaces in their repurposed carriage houses…basically the first parking garages. As the popularity and accessibility of automobiles grew, the need for a convenient storage space for automobiles grew as well.

The reduced need for horse and carriage storage also saw a change in the use of carriage houses in another way: ancillary dwelling or business spaces. The conversion of carriage houses allowed the increase of urban residential space, increased affordability and increased the potential for multi-generational housing. And, it was not uncommon in large estates for the carriage house to already contain living spaces and quarters for workers and servants.

1920s home with car parked in front of garage

In the 1920s, the explosion of highways and automobile ownership first started to shift the sale and purchase of homes. Buyers wanted homes with garages.

The 1940s brought about even more incorporation of garage spaces into home design and as automobile ownership continued to grow, garage spaces accounted for a whopping 45% of all square footage by the 1960s.

The growth of the garage space also contributed to the attached and front-load garage design.

Previously, homes with large and broad front porches were the norm. Modeled after dwellings with African roots, these porches and outdoor spaces served as an interaction space between private and public life. And, as this design feature was adapted to American architecture it was a space for living, seating, movement, neighborhood interaction, seeing what was going on around town, and social and commercial activities.

Broad front porch

Automobiles again served as the catalyst for change in neighborhoods. Streets became dominated by automobiles, making front spaces less hospitable to social activities, and the birth and growth of the American suburb focused on the ease and convenience required in a commuter community. And, you’ll notice that the attached garage completely eliminated the need for a social space between public and private…you never even have to see anyone outside of your home, you go from car, to garage, to house all without stepping outside.

Suburban Neighborhood

The growth of the backyard started as well…homes moved closer to the street to allow more space in the back away from street noise…making the front porch even more inhospitable.

Interestingly enough, market data shows a clear preference for walkable communities that allow porches to be a social and living space and many urban and walkable neighborhoods are trying to have porches make a comeback.

The real twist is that approximately 85% of garage owners today don’t even use the space for vehicle storage.

To quote Korvo, “I hope the combustion engine was worth it.”

When we were looking for our first home to purchase, a garage with an apartment was super appealing to us. An ancillary dwelling unit for rental potential to offset the Mortage or provide more home office space, and being able to park a car in the garage to shield it from Texas heat and Houston's unpredictable and ever-changing weather was big on our list of 'must-haves.' Luckily, we knew where to look to improve our chances of locating our dream home. I find the development and design of homes so fascinating, and we're ready to put our knowledge to work for you. Let us help find a home that checks all your boxes.

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