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Saturday, June 25, 2016

The "Technology That Fizzled" Story

The parking lot to the right once held the Hager's Pigeon-Hole
Parking Garage in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing along Market Street in the city of Lancaster, PA trying to remember exactly where the Hager's Department Store Pigeon Hole Parking Garage was located.  If I close my eyes I can still see my dad pulling our car into the parking garage, exiting the car, the door of the garage closing and taking the car to an upper level without anyone in the driver's seat.  Pretty neat for 1956 when the store in downtown Lancaster build their Pigeon Hole garage at the corner of Grant and Market Streets behind their store on West King Street.  
Hager's Pigeon-Hole Parking Garage.  You can see
some of the car fins extending beyond the end.
The garage was ten stories high, higher than the department store, when it was built. Certainly was the talk of the town and everyone wanted to have their car parked in the lot at one time or another.  Pull your car up to the garage, hop out of it, watch your car be pulled into the elevator and begin to rise and then try to stand back and see which floor or location your car might have been taken.  Some cars stuck out of the garage more than others, since back in that era of car manufacturing, cars had big fins and these fins could be seen from the ground, sticking out of the garage.  The garage could hold 240 cars, but some cars were so big that they couldn't be handled by the mechanical transport system.  One such car was the huge Cadillac Fleetwood with large "wings" that were so wide it wouldn't fit into the unit.  
A drawing for the Sanders lift.
I can remember a location in front of the garage where we would stand and watch the entire operation.  But then, after a few years, the APS (automatic parking system) began to malfunction and at times you had a hard time retrieving your car.  The Pigeon-Hole theory of garage parking seemed to be pretty neat, but eventually it began to fade and Hager's Department Store demolished their garage in 1964.  The robotic parking valet, which was first designed by Vaughn and Leo Sanders, after working with a forklift in a lumber mill, was a great technological advancement, but it just didn't work. I can still visualize my dad's car going up the chute, being pulled by a chain onto the main line, and then dropped off in a parking space a few minutes later.  Perhaps, its time to bring back the Pigeon-Hole Parking Garage.  Certainly would solve the parking woes of many of the major cities in the USA.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.



Another look at a Pigeon-Hole Parking Garage from the 1950s-60s.


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