The Car Parking Machine 1932

2 Posted by - May 26, 2015 - Media Moment

At the present time, a considerable number of potential car owners are deterred from purchase by the apparently unanswerable problem of parking their machines when at work or shopping, etc.  ~Everyday Science and Mechanics, January 1932

Science and technology had the answer!

The dawn of the automobile age was cause for anxiety – and innovation – in 1920s Chicago.  The huge number of car commuters to Chicago’s Loop eventually meant the construction of countless parking garages and lots.  But in the meantime, the car elevator was seen as a modern, space-saving solution.

As the video clip shows, rotary lift parking systems operate like a Ferris wheel: cars are parked in suspended cages attached to a belt, one car at a time, the entire series of cars rotated until the next cage is at the bottom.  Powered by electric motors or hydraulic pumps, they are actually less expensive per parking space because they use less ground and require less structure to be erected around them.  They reduce pollution, too, because cars are not running, circling, idling in search of a space.

The earliest such parking systems appeared in L.A., New York, and Chicago in the 1920s.   A system now found all over Japan – the “ferris wheel” or paternoster system – was invented by Westinghouse in 1923 and introduced in Chicago on Monroe Street, between State and Dearborn:


For the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair, the Nash Motor Company created the first glass-enclosed parking system:


The success of this idea will, undoubtedly, increase greatly the value of cars to city residents; stimulate downtown shopping; and speed up traffic, by clearing the streets of the numerous parked cars which often reduce the lanes of traffic to half their proper efficiency.  ~Everyday Science and Mechanics, January 1932








  • wohrparking October 5, 2016 - 5:01 am Reply

    Nice blog with lots of information.

  • Christina Alex December 6, 2020 - 8:04 am Reply

    Is there a way to get this made into a print?

    • Wendy December 6, 2020 - 7:33 pm Reply

      Hi, Christina – I don’t own any of these images, but you can look them up online. Hope that helps!

  • Mike Helford October 1, 2021 - 4:54 pm Reply

    Amazing photos and articles, thanks Wendy, very cool collection.

    • Wendy October 1, 2021 - 5:02 pm Reply

      Thank you, Mike!

  • Myra October 9, 2022 - 12:56 pm Reply

    What became of this building and other parking facilities like this?

    • Wendy October 9, 2022 - 7:36 pm Reply

      As you can imagine, these were difficult to build, use, keep repaired, etc. And very soon (post WWII), new modern parking structures began popping up downtown along with surface lots, so there were many more spaces for cars with a much easier way of getting in and out. Thanks for your question.

  • Aaron January 3, 2023 - 11:01 am Reply

    Interesting that this opens in the late 1920s, when downtown real estate speculation was spiking – no one wanted to build a parking garage when more money could be made in office towers. Only a few short years later, in the midst of the Great Depression, many downtown landlords *tore down* buildings and put up parking lots (dubbed “taxpayers”) to avoid paying taxes on depreciating properties. By the 1940s-50s, decentralization, not overcrowded downtowns, were the biggest worry. This kind of elevator could only have appeared in the brief economic moment that it did.

    • Wendy January 5, 2023 - 1:35 pm Reply

      Thank you for that, Aaron.

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