315 King St.
Yesterday: Gloria Lobster House (1929-1936)
On the menu: Oyster fricassee (Feb. 24, 1929)
The short-lived Gloria Lobster House had no shortage of amenities to promote: The restaurant served everything from French consommé to Danish pastries, and provided private booths in which its customers could enjoy them.
But what apparently mattered to fashionable downtown types was Gloria’s promise of free parking for their automobiles.
Gloria was one of the first Charleston restaurants to proactively address the pesky problem of where to stash a Model A while feasting on roast pork loin. Just weeks before Gloria advertised the availability of parking spots, The Idle Hour on Meeting Street Highway tried to induce diners to drive north by offering “plenty of parking space.” Around the same time, Schwettmann’s, 125 King St., announced it had ample parking for people seeking “big fuzzy ice cream sodas.”
From the moment that cars came to Charleston, the city’s leaders fretted over where to put them. In the 1910s, motorists were prone to park their vehicles on streetcar tracks and in front of fire hydrants, desperate to wedge their bulky machines into a landscape designed for four-legged traffic.
Charleston in 1916 issued its first automobile ordinance, which stipulated where and when it was lawful to park downtown. Sections of King Street, for example, were completely off-limits, while parking elsewhere along the street was limited to 20 daytime minutes.
Yet every year, the parking problem worsened, because more people were buying cars. Complaining about parking became a national pastime, prompting Charleston newspapers in the 1920s to regularly publish witticisms such as, “All the world loves a lover, until he compounds the parking problem.” In another column, editors joked that people were speculatively buying up farms, with an eye toward turning them into parking lots.
The Parkway in 1927 opened at Broad and Exchange streets, selling covered parking spots “free from interference or crowding.” But one private lot didn’t pacify concerned downtown merchants and restaurateurs, who customers blamed for allowing employees to take up valuable pavement.
— Hanna Raskin
From the way Gloria described its parking conditions, it sounds like the restaurant offered some kind of valet service. “The parking garage needed to be invented: It didn’t really exist before,” the curator of the National Building Museum’s 2009 exhibit House of Cars told National Public Radio, referring to the parking crisis that seized the nation in 1929, when Gloria opened its doors.
Seven years later, the restaurant closed. The city’s parking woes endure.
— Hanna Raskin