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What is Downtown's Oldest Parking Garage?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, May 26, 2006, at 10:13AM
Garage at 746 S. Hope Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Continuing my tour of Downtown parking garages, did you know the garage at 746 S. Hope St. was built in 1925?

It opened in September of that year as the Auto Center Garage and offered gasoline and tires for sale, as well as car wash and lube services. A monthly parking pass would set you back a hefty $12.50.

Originally the garage also had 48 feet of ground floor retail frontage, though obviously that's disappeared at some point over the years. Total construction cost was $500,000.

The garage was touted by the LA Times as the "most modern garage building west of Chicago." It employed the d'Humy Motoramp principle which was patented a few years later as US Patent 1,704,499. From the patent:

This invention relates to buildings and more particularly to storage buildings such as garages of the type wherein the several floors are connected by ramps over which the vehicles may be driven from floor to floor in order to reach their respective storage spaces. The main objects of the invention are to improve and simplify the structure of such a building and to provide an easy ascent for the vehicular traffic without reducing the storage capacity of the floors.

So 1925... Is this Downtown's oldest free-standing parking garage (that still exists), or is there an older one somewhere?

Update (Wednesday, 4pm): Martin suggested the old Hotel Clark garage, and we've vetted that one to decide it is no longer standing. Still up in the air is ed's suggestion of the garage on Main, just south of 7th.

Update (Sunday, 7pm): We've had two suggested candidates for oldest garage, but as of right now 746 S. Hope is still winning.

Pacific Mutual Garage

In the comments Shannon asked about the Pacific Mutual garage. I've done a little research.

They didn't open the structure with the building, but the article from July of 1921 talking about the building opening mentions it being under construction.

Excavations are now under way for the big two-story garage which is being erected by the Pacific Mutual Company at the rear of the present building. This garage, which will be of fireproof construction throughout, and ventilated by a modern system, will house 176 machines. The garage is to extend through from Olive street to Grand avenue, and the roof will be so constructed that it can be used as a thoroughfare and parking space by the tenants of the building and their guests are patrons. The underground garage, for use of the tenants of the building only, will be in the charge of a uniformed attendant.

That was a change from earlier plans. In an article from 1920 talking about the construction:

The private parkway seventy feet in width, [that] now exists to the north of the Pacific Mutual Building, will be extended through to Grand avenue making a parking space for automobiles seventy feet wide running through from Olive street to Grand avenue.

And it would appear they changed yet again... Instead of just the 176 car garage they attached into the building basement to add capacity. A brief story from January of 1922 under the heading "Solving the Downtown Parking Problem" says:

Occupying the entire basement of the Pacific Mutual is a huge garage capable of handling 300 cars at once.

So while this garage opened earlier, I think I have to disqualify it for being integrated into a building and not free-standing.

Interestingly, a different 1920 article spoke of plans to build the City's largest garage -- 1032 cars on 8-floors -- on the corner of 5th and Grand. It doesn't appear those plans were ever realized.

May Company Garage

Old May Company Garage Ed suggested I look into the old May Company Garage at 9th and Hill. It's a fascinating old parking structure, but it's still not older than the current leader at 746 S. Hope.

The garage was announced on December 6th, 1926, when Architects Curlett and Beelman applied for a building permit to for a "six-story, three-basement garage building to be erected at a cost of approximately $500,000 for the May Company on the southeast corner of Ninth and Hill streets."

A few others shots: old May Co signage, windows and air conditioners (and another)

Hotel Clark Garage

Hotel Clark Garage Though the Hotel Clark is on the corner of 4th and Hill, in 1919 it built a garage one block away on the corner of 4th and Olive. Martin, who runs the great site you-are-here.com, suggested that perhaps this was the garage still standing on the southeast corner of that intersection next to the Subway Terminal Building. I went back and forth on whether it could be, but my current conclusion is that this garage is no longer standing.

Garage at Corner of 4th & Olive The first problem is that the slope of the hill just doesn't fit. As you can see in the current picture, both streets slope down from the intersection. In the historic picture one goes up. If you take a careful look, too, you'll note that the architecture is similar but just not right. The windows are quite different, and the garage openings in the present layout don't make sense if this is the Clark's old garage.

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