Thursday, March 14, 2013

Blueprint for a Colonial Revival garage

Like many garages of its era, the garage for 920 Cedar Brook Road was sited at the back edge of the property. It was designed at the same time as the house, so it shares similar colonial revival architectural details. And like the house, it's large. It's a two-story building, with a spacious ground level footprint that would have accommodated two sizable 1910s-era automobiles. Sometime later, an additional single-story bay was built, increasing the capacity to three cars. (The drawings below show the original configuration.)

Original drawings for the two-story garage at 920 Cedar Brook Road. The door in the side elevation (top right, first row) opens into the back yard. Image reprinted courtesy of the Local History Collection of the Plainfield Public Library, NJ. 
The garage's heavy sliding doors, detailed with inset panels and small windows across the top, still moved smoothly enough for adventurous children to operate in the 1970s. But we actually preferred to slip in and out through the "secret" hinged opening that was built into the left-hand door panel (see blueprint detail, below).
Detail of main garage doors. Note hinged panel at left, which is accessed by a small inset lock. Image reprinted courtesy of the Local History Collection of the Plainfield Public Library, NJ. 

Inside, the garage was just as much of an adventure. An enclosed staircase at the rear led up to the second floor, where a wood-paneled room was apparently used by the chauffeur during the day (see second floor detail of "Man's Room," below). A huge double window opened onto the garage space below, and the room itself was large enough for perhaps a bed, chairs and table. There is also a built-in closet, and as you can see from the chimney, the garage was once heated.

Second floor garage detail. Image reprinted courtesy of the Local History Collection of the Plainfield Public Library, NJ. 

Side porch entrance, April 2012.
By the late 1960s, when my parents moved in with two cars and three small children, they found it more practical to park in the driveway, and the garage became more of a storage space for lawn equipment and bikes. But imagine the vehicles that must have rolled out of that elegant old building back in the day. Summoned by a phone or bell, the chauffeur would have donned his cap and warmed up a beautiful Packard or other fine automobile from the period, and headed up the drive to collect members of the Hunstman family at the covered side entrance of the house.

Sadly, the old garage has fallen on hard times. Garages from the early part of the 20th century era are fragile structures, and finding an original one still standing is somewhat miraculous, according to the research I've done. So while this one will need to be rebuilt, the good news is that because the blueprints exist, it can be restored faithfully. In addition, I suspect that many of the original materials inside - paneling, interior and exterior windows, steps and doors - can be salvaged and repurposed.

With a little thought and effort, I believe this little gem of automotive architectural history, designed with just as much care and attention by Messrs. Marsh and Gette as the main house itself, can be successfully recreated and shine again.



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