PLAINFIELD, NJ - As you drive along Park Avenue in the parking lot of Muhlenberg Hospital, you will see along the western boundary a series of garages. One in particular is more distinctive than the long standard multi-bay garage. It is a two-story, two-bay garage with a Dutch barn roof line, a chimney, and a second-floor exterior barn door for hoisting equipment. Ever wonder why this garage survived when all the houses around it were demolished for the Muhlenberg parking lot?
It was Louis Chevrolet’s garage when he lived at 1232 Park Avenue. He and his brother, Gaston Chevrolet, lived in Plainfield from October 1916 until October 1919. Their youngest sister, Martha, lived in the Plainfield area until her death in 1974.
Louis Chevrolet was an inventor, race car driver, and a pioneer in the automotive field. He was a consulting engineer for the American Motors Corporation located at Grant Avenue and West Front Street. The passenger car, “American Motors Six,” was manufactured there. The Chevrolet Brothers, who also designed the Frontenac car, would take their Frontenac for practice runs down Johnston Drive, Watchung. Gaston died in a Frontenac at the Beverly Hills Speedway in a 1920 race car crash. Louis died in 1941 of natural causes. There is a Louis Chevrolet Memorial at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
The house where Louis lived was demolished many years ago, but the garage in the rear of the property was spared. One can surmise the reason for the survival of this garage is that many Plainfielders knew that Louis Chevrolet once lived there. When Muhlenberg began acquiring the Park Avenue properties, the Board of Governors, the old guard including former Mayor Leighton Calkins who knew Louis Chevrolet, realized the garage’s importance, and never took it down, and Muhlenberg used it for storage.
Louis Chevrolet’s garage has survived for a long time, and now this area has been slated for redevelopment so the next time you drive along Park Avenue look to the west, and see a piece of Plainfield history before it is gone.