The History of the Garage Door

Garage door safety

The History of the Garage Door

The garage has been around for quite some time now, developing over the years to include the garage doors we see today. As we know, a garage is way more than just a place to park your car! The history of the garage door involves a long line of improvements that have become adaptable to a homeowner’s needs. Let us go back in time and see where it all began.

In the Beginning

The earliest garage doors are dated back to 3500 B.C., although some sources say even earlier. Around this time the first wheels made their appearance. Even then, humans were looking for a place to park their vehicles.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, carriage houses were the main place to store one’s vehicle. At the time, they were no more than barns, with a dirt floor, simple walls, and gates as the doors. In places like Colonial America, the carriage house was almost never attached to the house, meaning people had to walk through whatever weather to get to their carriages.

When the automobile was introduced to the public, things changed very quickly. Initially, only the socially elite were able to afford this expensive piece of machinery, but soon they realized that in order to keep them in good condition, they needed a place to store them away from the elements. This brings us back to carriage houses. Owners were now repurposing their carriage houses that used to house horses, buggies, and other horse travel equipment. There were some business owners who found this repurpose a good investment and set one up for the public. The elite could rent out a space for their car for $15 to $20 a month, which is equivalent to about $600 today. These spaces were heated, cleaned and maintained by the building owner, but this only proved to be a temporary solution as issues started to arise.

Some of these repurposed carriage houses still housed livestock, so if you can imagine, people began to notice that their expensive cars started to smell, and they began looking for a better solution. Once the automobile became really popular and more affordable, the main issue was to have storage available to everyone.

Jump Ahead to the 20s

That brings us to the more modern day garage. The name is taken from the French word “garer” which means “to store”. In the beginning, as you may have guessed, garages were very basic. In 1908, Sears Roebuck & Company recognized the need for automobile storage and came up with a portable garage solution.  Initially, it was popular for those that did not have, nor built, a garage on their property. With the passing of the Federal Road Act of 1916 and Federal Highway Act of 1921, the car market boomed and became a fixture in everyday life, so people quickly started to buy and build garages for their cars.

The early garage was basically a shed with barn doors that swung open. This worked for storage of the car, but didn’t keep the cars warm, and was very difficult to maintain. A big swing door that opens and closes every day leads to wear and tear, and with snow on the ground, well, you might as well just forget about it! A sliding door was introduced in the early 20s and was a much needed upgrade. However, the drawback of the sliding door was that the garage space needed to be twice as wide so that the doors could open and close properly.

During this time, C.G. Johnson invented the overhead garage door. Fast forward five years and Johnson invented the first electric garage door opener to help those who had difficulty opening their heavy doors. Adding to historical value, C.G. Johnson is the founder of The Original Garage Door Factory of the Overhead Door. To promote his door, he mounted a small prototype to a Model T Ford and drove around the country to sign up with distributors. At the same time, Ford Motor Company was just starting to manufacture over a million cars, which made the Midwest a high demand area for garage doors.

However, in 1921, the factory was a two-story, 1,000 square foot facility in Detroit. At that time, only one door could be made per day. After three years, the factory moved to a new location in Hartford City, Indiana where a new facility was built with 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

Selling Real Estate

When it came to real estate, a lot of potential home owners were asking about garages, and if it didn’t have one, the property often would not sell. By the 40s, designing a home with a garage was as important as having a bathroom. Americans wanted a working garage that also looked nice, which brings in the modern term of curb appeal. During this time, architects started to design homes so that people could enter their home through the garage for convenience and style. As the economy grew, so did the size of the garages. By the 60s, the average family could afford more than one vehicle, so garages needed to be expanded. If you can believe it, at the time, the garage accounted for 45% of the square footage of the entire home.


Today, over 82 million American homes have a garage, and 79% of homes have at least a single car garage. Most homeowners use their garage as an entry way to their home, and their garage is used for more than just storage. Many have transformed their garage into studios, apartment work spaces, and man caves. Some of the world’s most iconic companies, like Google and Nike, started in garages. Also, to bring light and recognition to the past, we now have more modern garages built to replicate the carriage house that started it all.

With so many options for your garage, you can design one that is right just for you. 

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