The history of the garage door

History of garage doors

Writing about the history of the garage door is not an easy task! Garages are generally considered as useful appendages to our homes which aren’t really worthy of our attention. And that is probably why, historically, there isn’t much information.
However, in the many studies of the effects the car has had on our societies, there are a few glimpses of how garages have evolved over time, so we decided it would be interesting to see what we could find.

In the early days

If we look at things historically, the growing numbers of cars on the roads are an indication of the growing need for somewhere safe to keep them. In 1904 there were 13,302 cars in England. By 1946 this had risen to 1,558,517, and by December 2010, there were 24,095,536!

Until the invention of the car in the late 19th century, people travelled by horse and carriage. Those who were wealthy enough to have their own horses tended to separate the stables from their houses, mainly because of the smell, noise and dirt. The growing popularity and reliability of the motor car meant that households were able to get rid of their animals, and used the space to accommodate their cars. With the impracticalities of horses a thing of the past, architects began to look on garages as part of the house and started designing living spaces differently.

The Modernist architect Le Corbusier firmly believed that the home was “a machine for living in”, and a lot of his designs, especially the Maison Citrohan, were inspired by cars. Although there are few mentions of garages, he recognised it as a functionally and aesthetically valid component of the house and therefore designed integrated space for car storage in a practical and aesthetic way, e.g. the Villa Savoye, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

By the 1930s, integrated garages were widely accepted as part of the design of the home, and garages were no longer concealed within the architecture in the way Le Corbusier had done. According to the US academic Folke Kihlstedt, the way Americans used their homes was transformed by the introduction of the car. People became more informal in the way they used their homes, and spaces like the parlour and porch fell into disuse and more space was taken up by the garage.

With regards to the common type of garages in England, the early versions were either made of brick, or prefabricated timber. Asbestos-panelled garages became popular from the 1920s and, whilst not the prettiest of structures, gained in popularity after 1945 – however, their removal is still causing modern householders major headaches.

Garage doors

Given the fact that people used their stables as early garages, it’s unsurprising that the stable door was the most popular type, and probably why it has been enduringly popular. However, when cars got bigger and took up more of the available space, a different and more space-saving solution was needed. In the 1920s, the cheapness of the mass produced Model T Ford meant more and more people were buying motor cars, and when they traded their horses and buggies in for cars, they also traded in their stable doors for sectional ones which gave them more room for their cars and trucks.

Automated doors

As long ago as 1931, an American science magazine announced the advent of the remote controlled garage door opener. Two entirely separate inventors had coincidentally developed receivers which remotely controlled electric motors that opened garage doors.

But it wasn’t until after the Second World War that remotely controlled doors became more widespread in America; and it wasn’t until the late ‘70s that they began to take off in the UK.

Whether you want your doors to be stable or sectional, manual or remote controlled, we will be able to provide and fit exactly the one you need. Contact us for more information, or call into our Cheshunt showroom to have a look at our range.

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