Garage Life / Griot's Garage / History

A New Garage! Part 2: The Barn Find


Maybe you’ve experienced something like this… You hear a rumor that there is something special nearby – lying neglected, hidden, almost forgotten. You find the spot, and coax the owner into letting you take a peek inside. The barn doors creak open and there, waiting patiently in the dark and covered with years of dust, is your next project.

Richard Griot’s latest “barn find” is not made of steel and rubber, but of concrete and glass. The future home of Griot’s Garage occupies a sprawling corner lot in central Tacoma. This building has been sleeping, waiting patiently for someone to blow off the dust and get to work.

Our barn find in a recent photograph.

Our barn find in a recent photograph.

There is history here. Stories revealed by the weathered brick and foggy windows and makeshift signs pinned to the walls. The original wood structure was built in 1912, and served as the city’s Contagious Hospital until its closure in 1937. Shortly thereafter, and until 1943, the local chapter of the Works Progress Administration (the largest of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” agencies) stationed its headquarters here. And in 1943, the Homes Use Service Bureau utilized the property for housing defense workers during World War II.

The original wood structure constructed in 1912.

The original wood structure, constructed in 1912.

In 1948, Coca-Cola Enterprises purchased the facility and began using the wood structure as an office. In 1950, they constructed an expansive brick building to serve as a bottling and distribution warehouse. Coca-Cola would occupy this space until 2008, when they moved to a larger facility in Lakewood, Washington.

Coca-Cola constructed the large brick structure in 1950.

Coca-Cola built the large, adjoining brick structure in 1950.

As with any barn find, it takes a little creative thinking to see the potential. We carefully lift the hood, walk around and contemplate the thing from every angle, and prepare to roll it out into the sun. We understand that some parts will be restorable, others will need to be removed, replaced, or re-imagined. What do you see when you look at these spaces?

Can you see it?griots-garage_big-move-2_interior-1griots-garage_big-move-2_interior-2griots-garage_big-move-2_interior-3griots-garage_big-move-2_interior-4

We’re excited to share our vision for this place, and to keep you on the inside as we roll up our sleeves and get ready for some late nights in the garage. Follow along here and remember, it’s all about what’s under the dust.

Photo Credits: 1 | 2 | 3
All others, courtesy Mark Greene.


  1. Thanks for sharing these “before” pictures! I can’t wait to see the “After”!!!

  2. Jennifer says:

    I am so excited too Gabi! Watching this progress is going to be so much fun!

  3. Wow! I am so happy to see such an interesting and reputable company coming into Tacoma and bringing new life to that old abondoned corner. Thank you, Griots Garage, for sharing this process with us. It’s almost like being there while you pick out paint swatches!

  4. It’s fun to imagine those bays filled with cool cars and the walls with posters–can’t wait. There had better be a big Grand Opening Party! Rock on!

  5. Talk about giving the “Garage” some Soul. There is nothing better to compliment great automotive design and influence like the industrial architecture of an older building with history and real soul.

    I can’t wait to see the progress and t visit the new location in the near future. Hope everything falls into place soon.

  6. Can’t wait to see what Richard does with the place. I am sure with his attention to detail it will be fantastic. Will it show case some of his cars and be on upcoming catelog covers? Good luck on the remodel and saving a bit of history.

  7. What a fantastic building to re-purpose and bring back to it’s former glory.
    I remember when the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, TN took on the project of taking the old Sunbeam Bakery building and making it into one of the best unusual auto museums today.
    Knowing Jeff Lane personally I know what an incredible task he had during the conversion, but the end product was worth it.
    Please keep us posted with your progress as you move forward with this project.

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