Today, it is more surprising to find a house in Canton, GA and the rest of America without a garage than vice versa. Because cars serve such large roles in the lives of many Americans, it is natural to need a safe place to store them when they are not in use. After all, the word “garage” comes from the French word “garer,” which means “to shelter.”

In the Beginning

At the beginning of the 20th century, having a barn to store horses and buggies was quite common. When people first began to purchase cars, the best logical place to keep them safe from the elements was in their barns. However, when cars first became available, only wealthier families could afford them. Since having a car smell like horse manure due to being stored in a barn was not usually desirable, it became clear that an alternative place to securely store cars was needed.  As a response to this, garages similar to today’s parking lots were built. Car owners could pay a monthly fee to store their cars in large garages that were owned and maintained by other people. However, eventually people called for storage options that were closer to their homes. After all, if you’re going to drive somewhere, why would you want to walk to your car first?

Cars Are Here to Stay

The passing of the Federal Road Act in 1916 and the Federal Highway Act in 1921 washed away any uncertainty that cars were an invention that would eventually phase out. These laws, coupled with the demand for ways to keep cars closer to home, led to garages being attached to homes.  Still, things didn’t exactly look the way they do today. Because people had previously stored cars in buildings with horses and buggies (referred to as carriage houses), the first buildings that were made specifically for cars were modeled after carriage houses. They had two doors that had to be opened manually, which was challenging for a few reasons. First, the doors were usually made out of heavy materials that made them very difficult to push open. Second, because the doors opened outward, nothing could be in their way. For example, any snow that may have accumulated would have to be shoveled out of the way in order for the doors to open and the car to get out.

Continuously Improving

In 1921, C.G. Johnson invented what is known as the overhead door. Having doors lift up and above cars made opening and closing them much easier. Still, there was room for improvement. In 1926, Johnson invented the automatic garage door opener. This eliminated the problem of lifting heavy doors as well as the need to get out of the car to close the door once the car had been backed out of the garage.

The increase in demand for garages attached to homes was reflected in realtor reports of what prospective homeowners wanted. Whether or not a house had a garage was often the first question families looking at houses would ask. This makes sense, given the ever-growing number of people who owned cars.

As the location of garages changed, so did the material with which they were made of. Many of the initial garage doors were made of wood. However, wood is very heavy (which mattered especially before the invention of the electric garage door opener), it can warp, and all manner of elements can negatively affect its functionality as a garage door. In the 1970s, many garage doors were made of out of steel. Because steel wasn’t a good insulator (unless one used two layers of steel and put insulation in between), other materials were sought out, such as fiberglass and aluminum. Today, garage doors in Canton, GA and across the country can still be made out of steel, wood, or aluminum.

Garages Today

As technology has advanced and the use of cars has continued to increase, a few things have happened. First, it is now standard for garage door installation to include sensors that detect when something, such as a child or piece of equipment, is in the way of the closing door. Second, the percentage of space in houses that garages take up has gradually increased. And third, as you may be very familiar with, garages in Canton, GA and elsewhere are not always used to store cars anymore. They may be used for storage, “man caves,” band practice, or even to start companies (fun fact: Google, Disney, Apple, and Nike, just to name a few, all started in a garage). When you think about it that way, the possibilities for the use of garages are endless. What do you use your garage for?