Elevators: Going Up!

The E. V. Haughwout Building on Broadway at the corner of Broome Street in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City was built in 1856-57 and designed by John P. Gaynor. (Photo by Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons)
The E. V. Haughwout Building on Broadway at the corner of Broome Street was built in 1856-57 and was the site of the first commercial elevator. (Photo by Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1857, the first successful passenger elevator was installed in New York City by Elisha Otis.

Here are some things you may not have known about elevators and Mr. Otis.

Elisha Otis was born in Vermont in 1811. He worked as a craftsman, turning bedposts, building wagons and making dolls. He was also an inventor. In 1851, he and his sons designed a safety elevator, which had a mechanism that stopped the cab in case of a cable failure. In 1854, he demonstrated the elevator during the New York World’s Fair.

In 1857, Otis installed the first commercial version in the E.V. Haughwout Building on Broadway in what is now the SoHo neighborhood in New York. Haughwout bought the elevator, not because it was needed in his five-story building, but as a novelty to draw customers into his store.

The first elevator traveled at 40 feet per minute, or less than a half a mile per hour. In comparison, the fastest elevator in operation today, in the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan travels at 37.7 miles per hour.

The first office building to have an elevator was the Equitable Life Building in New York, which was completed in 1870.

Elevator cab doors were patented in 1874, and three years later, automatic elevator shaft doors were patented.

The first electric elevator was built by Werner von Siemens of Germany in 1880.

Most of the world’s tallest buildings don’t have elevator shafts that run from the bottom floor to the top. Much like a subway journey, passengers need to make transfers to get to their desired floor. One reason for this is the weight of the cables. Beyond 500 meters, the cables would need cables of their own to lift them. However, advances in carbon-fiber technology means that elevators will soon be able to go even higher.

Under construction in Saudi Arabia, the Jeddah Tower will stand 1 kilometer tall, or almost 3,300 feet. The building will feature the world’s tallest elevator at 2,165 feet.

Back to Elisha Otis, he went on to patent a steam plow, a rotary oven and an oscillating steam engine before dying of diphtheria in 1861 at the age of 49.

Our question: What does the name of New York’s SoHo neighborhood mean?

Today is World Meteorological Day, Pakistan Day and Day of Hungarian-Polish Friendship.

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It’s the birthday of rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, actress Joan Crawford and filmmaker Akira Kurosawa.

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