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  • Writer's pictureBritney Heerten

Inventions in Architecture: The Elevator

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

"On the 23rd of March, 1857, the first successful passenger elevator carried customers up to the fifth floor of the Haughwout Building in New York City. It was not actually the first elevator, but it was the first commercial installation by Elisha Otis, who invented the safety device that made it all possible." Says

Without the invention of the elevator there may not have been an increasing number of tall buildings, especially the height that we build to today. With out the elevator, only a limited amount of people would be able to use the top floors.

This first elevator only moved at 40 feet per minute. CNN tells how the elevator was at first only a tourist attraction any many people rejected the idea. Buildings only one story high were more popular because people did not want to have to climb stairs. Back then the

higher the floor, the cheaper the cost. In 1854, at the New York World's Fare, Elisha Otis demonstrated the safety of his product by cutting the rope the his elevator after being hoisted up high and the rack system popped out from the side to catch the elevator car.

"It was a clever system: if the rope snapped, a ratchet would pop open and catch on racks that ran alongside the shaft, stopping the car's descent almost immediately." says CNN.

Some of the first elevators were installed in luxury hotels and stores. These included mirrors and seating areas and were sometimes referred to as ascending rooms. The experience was more about luxury and technology than about speed.

Once the elevator made it to the corporate buildings it became more important to have speed. The steam engine was just to slow and the new elevator began being powered by a hydraulics instead.

Next to come was the Hydraulic Traction elevator that we still use today. With the speeds that elevators could now achieve, there was a desire to keep going higher. Eventually the society excepted the elevators and it became more expensive the higher the floor.


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