Vintage Photographs of Early Colossal Vertical Parking Garages, 1920-1960

Freestanding 48 Car Elevator Parking Garage in Downtown Chicago’s business district, Built by the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, 1936.

The rapid rise of automobiles at the turn of the 20th century presented an immediate problem: where to park all these vehicles roaming in the streets?

The concept for the vertical parking garages was and is driven by two factors: a need for parking spaces and a scarcity of available land. The earliest use of the vertical parking solution was in Paris, France in 1905 at the Garage Rue de Ponthieu. The systems consisted of a groundbreaking multi-story concrete structure with an internal car elevator to transport cars to upper levels where attendants parked the cars.

h/t: rarehistoricalphotos

A vertical parking machine, 1930s.

The earliest such parking systems in the US appeared in L.A., New York, and Chicago in the 1920s. For the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair, the Nash Motor Company created the first glass-enclosed parking system. During this time, Kent Automatic Garages was installing automated parking systems with capacities exceeding 1,000 cars.

Citroen cars in Le Marbeuf garage in Paris, designed by architects Albert Laprade and L. E. Bazin. 1930s.

The popularity of automatic parking systems ultimately waned due to the long wait times required for customers to retrieve their cars, but they can still be found in cities worldwide especially in Asia.

Le Marbeuf garage in Paris. 1930.

Le Marbeuf garage in Paris. 1930.

A vertical parking lot structure in Chicago. 1940s.

The Nash Motors automobile elevator display at the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago. 1933.

Vertical parking garage in Chicago, 1936.

The Autorimessa Piazzale Roma, a garage in Piazzale Roma, Venice, Italy. 1950s.

The Autorimessa Piazzale Roma, a garage in Piazzale Roma, Venice, Italy. 1950s.

A man parks a car with the help of a forklift. 1955.

An “autosilo” garage in Karlsruhe, Germany. 1955.

The central well of an automatic car park in England. 1960s.

A car teeters at the top of a paternoster parking elevator as a result of a broken bolt in Denver, Colorado. 1970s.

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