Rise of the elevator car park

Car Park Art Deco Facade

The evolution and adoption of the automobile as an everyday necessity is one of the most impacting of the 20th Century.  In 1886 the ‘modern car’ was developed by Karl Benz and only 22 years later in 1908 the first Model T became available to the mass population.

Move ahead only 20 years and the impact of mass adoption can already be felt on the streets of New York by traffic congestion.  Road conditions were further pressurised by haphazard car parking.  Take a look at the video montage of silent movies highlighting driving around New York City in 1928 below.

Enter Milton A. Kent – Car Park Innovator

Kent’s Car Park currently used as an office building

In response to the effects of New York’s car parking issue in the late 1920s Milton A. Kent developed a solution – Hotels for Autos.  Kent’s Automatic Garage was the first automated high rise car parking garage.  Built at the cost of $1.4 million in 1929 and known as the 43rd Street Garage, it stood 24 storeys tall and could accommodate 1000 cars.  Architects Jardine, Hill & Murdock designed the highly functional Art Deco building.

Kent’s automated rack for sliding cars into spots

Car Park Automation

Kent’s automated garage allowed customers to park their cars within a curb-side elevator.  An attendant would then take the car by elevator to a particular level, where they would use a “push button” system to bring a trolley underneath the car which would draw it onto a network of rails to the available spot.  In 1929 you could purchase your spot for 50 cents per hour or $30 per month.


Milton A. Kent completed another automatic garage in Manhattan in Columbus Avenue and 61st Street.  The building was also designed by the same architects with extraordinary Art Deco detail.  The Columbus Circle building is now an apartment building while the original Kent’s Automated Garage is an office building at 209 East 43rd Street.



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