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A Brief History of the Garage Door

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For those of us who keep our cars in a garage, we may well find ourselves raising and lowering the up and over door many times a day. If you have repurposed your garage to use as a workshop, storage room, gym or utility room you may use the main door less frequently, but nonetheless it is an integral part of the garage. But have you ever wondered about who thought up the idea of the up and over garage door that has become so iconic, and where and when it came into being? It would be completely logical to assume that it came into existence around the same time that cars became mass-manufactured. And you’d be right – but the origins go far further back.

Swing low, sweet chariot…

It is generally agreed that the original concept of a garage door dates back to the days of chariots – a early as 450 BC. At this time, chariots were the primary form of wheeled transport and stored in buildings known as gatehouses, where doors were fitted primarily for their defensive function and were certainly not practical.

Interestingly, the modern words car, carriage and carry are all derived from the same origin as the word chariot, whilst the word garage comes from the French garare, meaning ‘to shelter’.

On your cart

As wheeled transport continued to develop and evolve, the horse and cart became a highly important mode of transport and stables and the carriage house or coach house began to be a common sight. At the same time, farmers began to build what were known as cart sheds.

The coach house was another step towards the garage as we know it today, with its primary role being to protect carriages from the elements rather than the enemy. In those days, huge, unwieldy wooden doors were used. They were heavy and opened outwards on bulky, iron hinges, which could make them problematic on uneven ground.

The onset of motoring

As the horse and cart began to be gradually replaced by motor cars, buildings formerly used as stables, coach houses and barns began to be used for storing cars instead – often alongside horses in the beginning! With this new form of transport being faster and able to make several trips a day, the need arose to create lighter weight doors that were easier to handle.

Early doors continued to open outwards on vertical hinges, but rigid metal hinges were replaced with leather strap hinges. However, these would wear out over time and were not ideal for regular, daily use. In addition, drivers began to realise that these outward opening doors were not always practical – especially in conditions such as snow or wind.

Up and over it goes

The up and over garage door that is so familiar today was first seen in America around the start of the 20th century. As early as 1902, American manufacturers—including Cornell Iron Works—published catalogs featuring a “float over door.” Evidence of an upward-lifting garage door can also be found in a catalog in 1906.

It was in 1921, however, that C.G. Johnson – founder of the Overhead Door Corporation – introduced the first up and over door as we know it today. This door could be lifted upwards, folding parallel to the garage ceiling. Keen to market his invention to the public, Johnson and his wife toured trade shows and county fairs across America demonstrating the “Overhead Door” with a miniature garage door mounted on a Ford model T truck.  In 1936, Leno Martin further developed this concept with the invention of one of the first one-piece overhead type garage doors.

Although there have been many improvements and adaptations over the years, today’s popular up and over garage door is not a great deal different from these early versions – it is an invention that has truly stood the test of time.

Here at Arridge Garage Doors, we are confident that our expertly fitted, top quality garage doors will also stand the test of time. We pride ourselves on offering excellent product knowledge, technical help, deliveries and general service – all whilst keeping our prices as competitive as possible. To talk to us now about getting your perfect garage door supplied and fitted, call the team today on 01691 670394.


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