A short but very interesting article on one person's history of parking garages:
The first garages were sometimes converted stables, sometimes other large buildings adapted for new use and sometimes built for the purpose (by auto clubs that worked to defend drivers against the entrenched horse-and-buggy partisans). Early automobiles were not all-weather vehicles -- engines could freeze and exposed leather seats needed special care -- so early garages were heated and protected from the elements. They were, in general, much better integrated into the urban fabric than garages built decades later..
Early in the history of the garage, two philosophical currents emerge. Is the car a machine, to be stored as efficiently as possible? Or is it an extension of our quintessentially American mobility, which often is considered to be almost the same thing as freedom itself? From this split emerged two very different kinds of garages.
The mechanized garage was efficient at housing machines. Drive in, hand the car over to an attendant, and a system of elevators and turntables moved the car to its place. But that lacked the freedom of the other model, the ramp garage, which eventually led to the self-park garage that we are all but addicted to today. You drive in, you drive out, you stay as long as you want.
The architecture of the old mechanized garages was generally superior -- more beautiful, exuberant and sensitive -- to that of the ramp garages that replaced them.