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The Surprisingly Interesting History of the Carport

(Partnered Content) Not too many people stop and think about carports and the part they play in history. After all, a carport is just an odd-looking structure that resembles less than half a garage. Carports come in different styles and configurations, and they have been known to have up to three walls.

Technically, anything without a large closeable door can be classified as a carport. So how did such an odd structure claim its place in the American landscape? The history of the carport starts in the Midwest with a world-famous architect.

The word “carport” is derived from the French term porte-cochère, meaning a covered portal. In the 19th century, portes-cochère were attached to hotels and the homes of wealthy people so that they could exit their buggies and coaches while remaining protected from the elements. Once they were safely inside, the buggy could sit protected under the canopy.

The first home designed with a carport, the William and Jennette Sloane House in Elmhurst, Illinois, was built in 1910. Walter Burley Griffin was the innovative architect behind the house. Frank Lloyd Wright, however, first coined the phrase “carport” in 1936, when he designed the first of his Usonian homes for Herbert Jacobs in Madison, Wisconsin. Wright’s Usonian style is characterized by L-shaped, single-story homes without garages. Wright focused on clean design elements that reduced clutter, eliminating the basement in his designs—he felt it was an opportunity to accumulate and store junk. He felt the same about the garage, believing the carport would lend itself to a tidier space. With no walls to hide a mess, homeowners would be forced to pare down their lifestyles.

With the modern rise of self-storage spaces, Wright’s beliefs now seem prophetic. In his view, the carport was an efficient use of materials because it covered the car and served as a protective entryway for the occupants. Wright felt that the carport was an important architectural element for a house. Placed in the right spot, as part of the whole structure, the carport was the difference between common and exceptional.

Frank Lloyd Wright summed up his conviction in the superiority of the carport over a garage when he told Herbert Jacobs, “A car is not a horse, and it doesn’t need a barn.”

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