From a Horse Barn to Carriage Storage to Cars and DIY Workspaces: When Did Garages Become a Thing?

Did you know that garages came before cars…? Garages have become a significant part of our daily lives. They are not only used to park our cars but also for storage, workspaces, and even as personal lounging areas. But have you ever wondered when garages became a thing? Or who came up with the idea of creating a separate structure to store our vehicles? 

If you're a car enthusiast and collector – or you just like to “tinker,” you probably have a special place in your heart (and your property) for your garage. Your garage is more than just a place to park your cars – it's a temple, a workshop, a DIY space, a sanctuary. But did you ever wonder how garages became so common in American homes? Let's take a journey through history, from the era of horses and buggies to the era of muscle cars and hot rods, and see when, why, and how garages became a thing. 

The origin of the word "garage" can be traced back to the French word "garer," which means "to store or shelter." However, the idea of a shelter for vehicles predates the invention of the automobile. In the 19th century, when horses and buggies were the primary mode of transportation, people built barns and stables to house their equine friends. These barns often had a separate room or stall for the carriage, where it was kept clean, dry, and secure (they must have had our awesome Tsunami Seal!). 

This room was the prototype of the modern garage. When the first cars appeared on the roads, they had a hard time finding a proper place to park. Many people kept them in their barns or carriage houses, but others had to improvise. Some parked their cars in sheds, porches, or even saloons. 

In 1896, an American named Charles Harrison invented the first car garage, which was a wooden structure with a sliding door. He built it in Detroit, the Motor City, and it became an instant hit. Soon, other car owners followed suit, and the automotive industry started to produce prefabricated garages made of metal or concrete. 

The popularity of garages grew steadily throughout the 20th century, thanks to several reasons. One was the mass production of cars, which made them more affordable and accessible to the middle class. Another was the increase in suburbanization, which led to bigger houses with bigger lots that could accommodate garages. A third was the rise of the DIY culture, which encouraged people to tinker with their cars and fix them themselves. 

Garages became not only a place to park cars, but also a place to work on them, store tools and parts, and showcase collections. (Of course, Covid made every nook and cranny of our dwellings a refuge – a place for alone time or project work). Over the years, garages have evolved from crude sheds to elaborate structures that can rival the main house in size, style, and technology. Some garages have multiple bays, lifts, air-conditioning, sound systems, big screen TVs, and even kitchens and bathrooms. Some garages have become museums or art galleries, displaying vintage cars, motorcycles, or memorabilia. Some garages have become social hubs, hosting parties, meetings, or clubs. 

Garages have become more than just a shelter for vehicles – they have become a symbol of status, passion, and identity. So, when did garages become a thing? The answer is: gradually, organically, and inevitably. Garages have always been a practical solution to a common problem – how to protect and maintain your valuable transportation. But garages have also become a cultural icon, a reflection of our love for speed, style, and independence. 

Garages are not just places, but spaces – spaces of creativity, freedom, and belonging. A garage is more than just a place to park your car – it's a portal to your passions. 

Keep your garage clean and dry with our super durable Tsunami Seal, which keeps rain and debris out of your garage and protects your prized possessions. Made of durable vinyl (not rubber), the Tsunami Seal comes with a Lifetime Warranty and comes with heavy-duty polyurethane construction adhesive (not silicone, which is not designed as an adhesive and doesn’t hold up over time). We believe the quality of the adhesive is as important as the seal itself.

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