Historic Garages and Outbuildings
Historic homes in the City of Detroit very commonly have historic garages or outbuildings. These buildings, though smaller and usually set at a rear property line, very often duplicate the style characteristics of the house itself. Graceful eaves and cornices are complimented by the use of wood siding, double garage doors and sometimes with tile or slate roofs in various style of the early 20th century. Although some other homes were built before the invention or popularity of the automobile, the design and materials of those garages built after the house reflect the time period in which they were constructed and become an important clue when measuring the history of a property over the years.
Because of the relatively small size and scale, repairs and maintenance can be achieved at a relatively low cost. The repair of garages is eligible for the Michigan State Historic Tax Credit, and should be undertaken with the same care as repairs made to the main house.
Just as house maintenance is important, so is garage maintenance. The most important feature for the general condition of the structure is the roof, keeping weather and animals out while protecting the roof and wall support structure.
Perhaps the most characteristic element of a garage is the doors. This element is usually part of the overall picture when viewing a house and itsí setting. The common double swing doors with a small number of glass lights in a simple geometric pattern can display the style of the garage as well as reflect the style of the main residence. If the original doors cannot be repaired, which is preferable to replacement, new companies make styles to look like a traditional swing doors but operate as a modern roll up door.
Siding material can also reflect the attributes of the house. Made of stucco, brick, half timbering or wood, siding should be repaired and maintained as if the garage was an addition to the house, including paint color and repair. Windows are also important to maintain, as are dormers and service doors. If security is a concern, you may want to consider leaving the exterior appearance of the door or window and bricking it up from the inside.
Maintaining the historic character of the garage does not only preserve the character of the property itself, but of each neighborhood and the qualities that make it unique. In the city that made the automobile industry, what better way to show the history of its people and neighborhoods than by preserving the unique and wonderful garages of our districts.
DETROIT HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION