Thursday, January 07, 2010

I want a 3-car garage...

...especially on mornings like this. You can always tell who has a garage-parked car and who parks on the street. The people with cars still half covered in snow and ice, they're street parkers. The warm and toasty drivers in shiny clean, snow free cars, they're garage parkers. It's a dead giveaway.

We have a garage. It's the original brick garage that came with the house back around 1932. Back then, cars were big as boats. Which makes the mystery about why our garage is tiny even stranger. Our garage looks more like a Missouri Ozarks smokehouse than a garage. In the summertime, when the back yard is in full bloom, visitors think the garage is "cute". Some say it looks like a garden house. It does. It sure looks alot more like a garden house than a garage. On days like these, I wish we had a garage that was more like a garage.

For a while, we were parking one car in the garage. To give you an idea of how small this garage is, in order to get our mid-size sedan in the garage, I'd first have to roll the lawnmower out into the alley, then park the car, then roll the mower back in the garage. It's tiny. However, given the vintage of its construction, if our neighborhood were ever designated a local historic district, I'm confident this tiny 1930s relic would be designated as a "contributing building" to the historic district. If it was, I'd still want a three-car garage.

Over a warm cup of coffee, I can dream about what that three-car garage would do. It would have a place to park two normal sized cars. It would have room to store tools, shelves, a couple of locking cabinets, and in the third bay, someday, it would be nice to park a tiny electric car or golf cart. I want to cruise the alleys of St. Louis in a golf cart. It's the thing to do and a great way to build up your neighborhood watch. None of this is possible in our quaint little smokehouse of a garage.

I've looked at options for expanding the existing garage. There are some possibilities. But they all leave us with still a tiny overall situation. The interior dimensions of the existing building are probably about 7 feet wide and 14 feet deep. Maybe.

But here's the real thing. Sure, this tiny garage is historic. It's neat to look at it, and it's scaled to the yard. It definitely has charm. I like it and I love the charm of our home, our neighborhood, and St. Louis. On the other hand, I want something that works. This garage definitely does not work for much except to store rakes, a mower and yard tools. Our quality of life in our city home would be much higher with a three car garage. Getting bigger garages with older homes is one way to make living in our older neighborhoods more competitive with our suburban neighbors.

We are in our second city house. The first one also had a tiny garage - a frame one. We lived with that one much like our current one. It was mostly good for storing yard equipment. Eventually, we took out a loan and did a lot of upgrades on the house, and demolished the old garage and built a new one. It was a one-and-one-half car garage built by Bullock Garage.

The garage was on sale as part of a promotional deal at the 1998 St. Louis Home Improvement Show. Counting demolition of the old garage, the cost of the new garage was about $11,000. It was awesome. Neighborhood kids played in there. It served as a roller hockey rink. In bad weather, I could work inside with the door open and be comfortable. We'd sit out there and drink beer, host parties, lots of stuff.

So now I have a goal for our current home. We've got to figure out a way to upgrade our garage situation. Three-car would be wonderful. Two-car would be good. And one-and-one-half-car would be better than what we have now. And to get there, I really wouldn't want to be required to preserve our existing historic garage.

In the future, I might be open to building it according to neighborhood design standards. Would people in my neighborhood want to establish a neighborhood or urban design code? I don't know. Either way, I'm betting I could get a new garage built long before neighbors would come to a decision about implementing neighborhood design standards. A guy can dream, can't he?


Daron said...

Yeah, I think my bus is parked in a garage overnight. It shows up nice and clean with the heat on. (although the cinders and salt on the floor are gross).

I don't know where you work, and I'm sure Metro would make you wait in the cold longer than most cities, but it is an option.

Tino said...

It's a common misconception that cars used to be larger than they are today. That might be true if you're talking about the late 1950s, but it's certainly not true of ordinary cars of the 1930s.

The Ford Model A (produced 1927-1931, and still in pretty wide use when my own charming but comically small garage was built in 1935) was 165 inches long and 65 inches wide.

For comparison, the current Honda Civic is 177 inches long and 69 inches wide. The Accord is roughly the size of the Cadillac Series 60 of the 1930s.

I think the difference is that in the 1930s, people tended more to use the garage for storing the car and not much else. Relative to today, materials (such as you'd use to build a larger garage) were expensive, and labor (such as you'd hire to mow the lawn, negating the need for somewhere to store the lawnmower) was cheap.

Anonymous said...

I have a tiny back yard and a garage that is probably proportionately too large for it's surroundings. However, it helped create interesting small seating areas and cozy alcoves. If I could find a way to disguise the vinyl siding I would be quite content.