The Capital Garage, located at New York Avenue and 13th Street NW in downtown Washington, was a monument to the ascendancy of the automobile. Ten stories tall, with 20 parking levels and room for 1,300 cars, the cavernous limestone building was the largest parking facility in Washington and one of the largest in the nation. Two cast concrete bas reliefs of 1920s automobiles – identical head-on views with grille, headlights, and windshield – stood watch over the entrance. During the first great influx of Ford Model Ts, Buicks, Packards, Studebakers and other cars into the city, the Capital Garage relieved parking congestion near major stores, hotels and theaters and made driving a viable, appealing alternative to riding a streetcar. With its complement of “chasers” or car hops, and amenities such as steam heat, a furnished lobby, and indoor filling station, the Capital Garage added a bit of panache to motorists’ daily routines. But as suburbs grew, downtown became less of a draw, and the Capital Garage closed in 1973. The following year, it was reduced in rubble. Only the iconic sculptures remain to mark the pomp and grandeur that helped to usher in the automobile age in Washington.
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