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Downtown Did Automated Parking Garages in the 20s and 50s

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1953 Pigeon Hole lot via LAPL; LAPL

Last week we learned that automated parking is about to be the next big thing in LA--there are structures planned for both West Hollywood and Chinatown--but it's already been the next big thing. Twice. Back in 1924, one of the city's first parking garages went up on Grand Avenue near Eighth, and it had a two-car elevator.

South Park Lofts/1924 elevator garage via Wikipedia

It was eight stories high, but narrow, with no room for ramps, according to a 2004 article in the LA Times, so architecture firm Curlett + Beelman designed the building around "a huge freight elevator that was sturdy enough to hold two cars at once." The building, now on the National Register, was converted into the South Park Lofts in the early aughts, and the elevator's rooftop house is now a gym for tenants.

A few blocks away, the slightly more advanced Pigeon Hole Garage opened at Flower and Wilshire in 1953. Pigeon Hole Construction built the structure for Standard Oil on what a 1952 article in the Spokane Daily Chronicle called "one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the west." According to the article, the lot was planned to have one elevator and fit 120 cars. The book Lots of Parking says Pigeon Hole's system was "more completely mechanized than [competitor] Bowser's, calling for an operator to command a dolly that pushed the car onto an elevator."

Pigeon Hole lot via LAPL

Where did the automated lots of yesteryear go? Lots of Parking says that while they were hot through the 1950s, "quickly thereafter entrepreneurs lost interest in them for a host of reasons. Clear-span construction was better suited to changing car sizes, and self-park satisfied customers' general impatience better than mechanical garages, which still required waiting. Periodic failures and unrepaired examples revived the prewar reputation of the mechanical parkers as impractical gadgets."

We can't wait to see how the new class fares.
· New Automated Parking Garages All the Rage in LA [Curbed LA]
· Lofty Designation for a Downtown Garage [LAT]
· 6 Story 'Pigeon' Parking Planned For Los Angeles [Spokane Daily Chronicle]