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Garages of the 1920's

m streets dallas garages

When Vickery Place was platted in 1911, it was far out on the fringes of housing development. (In fact, the city limits were not extended out to Vickery Place for several years.)

Anyone commuting to downtown Dallas in 1911 had to ride a horse and buggy or catch a public street car. Vickery Place was served by two street car lines, one on McMillan and one on Matilda. Ridership on public transit reached the highest levels during the 1920's, and then began to taper off. The shift to the automobile was completed during the thirties. And by the late thirties the McMillan line ceased operation.

Henry Ford's Model T (introduced in 1908) was the first automobile intended for the mass market. The success of the Model T made the family car a standard fixture of the American home. The book "Domestic Architecture", copyrighted in 1926, states: "In recent years a garage with an automobile approach has become very common...". This shows how architects and builders were incorporating garages as a part of any new house by the late 1920's.

m streets dallas garagesGarages borrowed their form and location from horse stables. Stables were built as a separate detached structure, often with quarters for domestics, or even chicken coops supplying fresh eggs and Sunday dinner. Frank Lloyd Wright often incorporated a car washing area within the garage, or motor court.

The typical Vickery Place garage was of wood frame construction. The siding was usually board-and-batten vertical siding. The roof structure had exposed rafter tails, and the roof was low-pitched (usually 6-to-12 pitch) just like the Craftsman Bungalow homes in the neighborhood. The foundation was a mud sill, which means the bottom two-by-four of each wall rested directly on the ground. The garage floor was, well, no floor at all; just dirt or gravel.

It was common to have a low ceiling height (less than 8 ft.) inside a garage. This helped to keep the scale of the garage smaller than that of the house.

Overhead garage doors were unheard of in the 1920's. Instead some garage doors were hinged to open outward like a typical house door. Others hung on top-mounted rollers which were carried on steel tracks above the door opening. Many examples of these sliding garage doors are still seen in Vickery Place.

The garage was always located in the rear third of the yard. That's where the stables had been located. This is illustrated in the diagram for site planning shown here. The diagram is from "Better Homes and Gardens" Handbook, circa 1930.

m streets dallas garagesHow big should a garage be? Architecture planning books as late as the forties proposed one car garages of 10 feet x 18 feet; or 180 square feet (approximately equal to 10 percent of the house area). By 1955 Packards and Hudsons were 18 feet 4 inches in length, and Cadillac built a sedan 19 feet 10 inches. At this time builders standardized the garage as 20 feet x 20 feet, or 400 square feet. Today the standard two car garage is usually 500 square feet.

The garage is an example of a new use borrowing from the past and making itself a piece of the architectural vocabulary. Vickery Place came into existence as the automobile and electricity were becoming common elements of our society.

Daron Tapscott, Architect

Sources:

  • L. Eugene Robinson, Domestic Architecture, Macmillan Co., 1926.
  • Ramsey & Sleeper, Architectural Graphic Standards, 5 ed. John Wiley & Sons, 1956.
  • "East Dallas Transitions 1872-1977", an Urban Study Report, UTA SAED, January 1979.

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