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Hotel La Salle: Where it all Began!

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1st Parking Lot, located 215 W. Washington Street, Chicago

1st Parking Lot, located 215 W. Washington Street, Chicago

Parking complexes never seem to get the credit they deserve. After all, they are extremely important and  give city-dwellers a place to shelter their cars when a storm blows in; a place to go to when there is no street parking; and a cheaper venue to park for longer periods of times. Here in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Parking Authority operates over 15 garages throughout the city, for those very reasons.

But, where did parking complexes start?

The answer: Chicago had the very first parking lot ever built, and it revolutionized the motor industry.

In 1918, the owners of Hotel La Salle in Chicago needed to find a new place for customers to park their cars, as the streets were becoming too crowded and chaotic for upper scale citizens to use.  They came up with the idea of building an indoor parking lot next to the hotel that would provide customers protection for their cars, and easy accessibility, should they need it.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t very impressive! It was built in a cramped, dark brick building that was designed to blend in with the surrounding architecture. There wasn’t anything glamorous about it, as storeowners didn’t want anything too elaborate built over their awnings.

In the early 1900s, most of America’s infrastructure was still transitioning to accommodate motor vehicles. Many of the first parking lots were converted from horse stables and barns. However, these were not viable solutions to deal with the population boom and outburst of car production in the 1910s.

The owners of the Hotel LaSalle contracted the architects Holabird and Roche to create a multi-level building entirely devoted to storing cars to cope with crowding streets. This was unheard of at the time, but proved to be a success, triggering a nation-wide movement for more of them to be constructed.

Sadly, the building was demolished in 2005, after failing to receive landmark status from the city of Chicago. But we won’t forget its importance in laying the groundwork for the sprawling complexes we now take advantage of today.

 

 

 

 

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