Although lift-like technologies have existed since ancient times, the history of the modern elevator doesn’t really begin until the 19th century. That’s when the first proper skyscrapers were constructed, and it’s no accident that elevator patents began to appear around that time.
But how has the elevator actually changed over the years? As it turns out, the history of elevator technology is an exciting field of study that has lots to teach us about why our buildings, cities, workplaces and educational institutions look the way they do. Let’s take a look at some key junctures in elevator development.
Moveable rooms for the wealthy
In ancient times, elevators were pulley-operated lifts that transported goods and people in highly specialized situations and structures, such as the Roman Coliseum. Most buildings in the ancient, medieval and Renaissance worlds simply weren’t tall enough to require elevators.
By the middle of the 19th century, that had changed. In the United States and Europe, steam-powered elevators became increasingly common fixtures in department stores, hotels and office buildings. Early elevators were uniformly luxurious, with comfortable furniture and plush appointments that reinforced the power dynamic between the servants operating them and the wealthy people riding them.
Electric elevators transform the world
By the late 19th century, electric elevators were beginning to leave their mark, though they didn’t become commonplace until the 1910s. Steam-powered elevators were efficient up to about 20 stories, allowing for the construction of buildings like Chicago’s Masonic Temple, but practical limitations dogged taller setups. The electric elevator allowed architects to take the next leg up, literally: The 715-foot Woolworth Building, in New York City, simply wouldn’t have been possible without multiple electric elevators. Elevators in pakistan
Changing our relationship to interior space
The electric elevator had numerous benefits for society and the economy. The most obvious: The dramatic reduction in traditional barriers to multi-story building construction, and a corresponding reordering of the real estate markets in densely populated cities. Of course, these changes in elevators have also created the infamous elevator phobias
But there’s a benefit that doesn’t get nearly the attention, though: By making it easier to access higher floors with great views, elevators reordered the interior geography of the world’s tall building stock. Before the elevator, the top floors of multi-story buildings were typically used as servants’ quarters, storage rooms and other “undesirable” uses, since the monied set couldn’t be bothered to walk up and down five or six flights of stairs several times per day. But once elevators made it possible to reach high floors without breaking a sweat, they naturally became targets of the rich’s affection – and remain so to this day.