Garage Doors Throughout the Ages

Old Garage Door

Automatic garage doors, as is the case with numerous other household necessities we’ve been conditioned to take for granted, don’t get enough attention from the history buffs among us. While perhaps not as significant of a 20th century invention as, let’s say, the internet or space travel, remotely-opened doors have made our lives more convenient. More importantly, they’ve protected countless automobiles from theft and weather damage. Yes, perhaps society would be a lot worse off if no one had ever invented soap or vaccines. But the importance of garage doors to human civilization shouldn’t be ignored.

Manual garage doors have existed in some incarnation practically throughout recorded time. Stables for horses, for instance, could be pointed to as a precursor to the modern garage. Other examples can be seen in “The Art and History of the Garage Door” by Ramona Lee Visconti. While obviously less convenient than a garage door that opens with the push of a button, the grey, wood and stone entryway depicted on the cover looks like majestic, yet somewhat grim architecture from medieval times. If Eddard Stark owned a classic car collection, perhaps he’d keep them locked up in just such a location. You’d obviously want them to be kept safe, right? In fact, a lot of owners of car collections often use storage units to keep their cars in. There are different sized units available, such as a 10×10 storage unit or a 5×10, to choose from. A lot of car owners feel more comfortable keeping their classics stored away from their own property. They are vintage and some people, presumably Eddard Stark, would only want them to be seen in a showroom and not on the roads. Having the prospect of them breaking down, and thus needing to get in touch with a Classic Car Repair service doesn’t bear thinking about for some people. But if you have the dream of being able to show off your amazing classic car collection, getting it serviced as often as possible is definitely the way to go. And then, you can store it safely in a location like this until the next time.

Automatic garage doors as we now know them didn’t appear until the 1920s, and sadly, their creator is so underrated by historians that the first thing his name conjures on a Google search is the website of a Pennsylvania elementary school named in his honor. Nonetheless, C.G. Johnson is credited for inventing the electric garage door opener in 1926. He also created a system for raising garage doors, as opposed to opening them horizontally like regular doors, in 1921.

As new technology is usually too difficult for those of average means to afford, most Americans wouldn’t be able to afford automatic garage doors until after the economic boom that followed WWII. A well-known brand from that era was manufactured by the Era Meter Company, according to Popular Science. These switches were initially dubbed the “Driv-Rite-In”s, and were sent out to the masses from Chicago. Once electric garage doors took off, other inventors went to work on improving the device, to make it controllable by remote. Somewhat astoundingly, Popular Science reported in 1931 that two completely unrelated companies had filed for patents on very similar radio-controller gadgets during that year with apparently no knowledge of each other’s existence.

Since the topic of discussion is garage doors, it could be a good idea to discuss a bit about the other aspects of a garage (like its foundation). While it may sound like a trivial aspect, without a concrete garage foundation, it cannot be possible to build other parts of the garage (let alone garage doors). That being said, building a solid foundation for a garage can play a crucial role in adding more years to the life of the structure. Typically, a garage foundation is made of block walls, which is important for supporting the structural integrity of the building. besides this, garage contractors also need to pay attention to the details (like soil preparation, vapor barrier, foundation mixture, and concrete expansion joint) of the process while they are doing the job. While it may look like a lot of extra work, building a strong foundation can prevent many problems and allow the garage decades of reliable use.

Anyway, when a garage door repairman stops by for repairs or cosmetic changes to an automatic garage door, history buffs may find themselves with an unexpected source of engineering historical trivia. And who knows garage foundations might tell more stories to such history buffs! One thing is for sure that garages can be a very intersteing topic of discussion.