A Visit to the Elevator Museum in Massachusetts

Text and Photos by Caleb Givens

The International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 4 Union Hall is tucked behind a few industrial facilities in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Housed in this building, in a large, open conference room, is the Elevator Museum. It is the shining physical presence of the Elevator Historical Society’s efforts to preserve the history of the elevator and escalator industry.

Your author visited Steve Comley, who is truly taking the museum from good to great. Comley is a longtime elevator man, getting his taste of the industry at an early age, thanks to his father, James, who purchased Embree and White Elevator in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1972. “I loved the dirty old elevator machine shop,” recalls Comley. “It was fascinating to me as a kid — the noise from the flat-belt pulleys running across the ceiling, the smell of the cutting oils on the machines and the smoke from the welding. They used to cast and completely build elevator machines there.”

Continue reading

Elevators for Elevators in Buffalo

During the first half of the 20th century, Buffalo, New York, had the largest capacity for grain storage in the U.S. with more than 30 concrete grain elevators along the Buffalo River and Lake Erie. In addition to serving as monuments to a former prosperity  — the first grain elevator was built in Buffalo in 1842 and the last in the 1950s — the structures boast distinct historical features. Some of the remaining 20-odd facilities are being preserved and even reborn, such as one that is now a mixed-use building, Silos at Elk Street, that serves as headquarters for Young + Wright Architectural. After buying the property for only around US$5,000 at auction, the firm poured approximately US$3 million into its transformation, which includes an elevator (of the vertical-transportation, rather than grain-storage, variety). Young + Wright tells ELEVATOR WORLD the transformation includes a five-stop elevator by Schindler in a five-story, brick building that formerly housed drying operations for grain used to make beer. “We have not actually touched the silos portion of our building,” the firm’s Mark Gallivan says. So, this post might be a little misleading in that the elevator is not actually located in the former grain elevator. However, an elevator in a grain elevator could be coming to Buffalo soon as part of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.’s plan to transform the circa 1915 Connecting Terminal on the Outer Harbor into a public attraction with an outdoor viewing deck. The Connecting Terminal is already home to nightly light shows.

The five-stop Schindler elevator that serves the offices.

 

Going Down: The Tallest Buildings Ever Demolished

This is a portion of an infographic that explains the CTBUH’s TBIN report, “Tallest Demolished Buildings,” which is available in the “CTBUH Journal, 2018 Issue II.”

Here at ELEVATOR WORLD, we think a lot about new skyscrapers going up. After all, it was the invention of the elevator that made anything much taller than three or four floors feasible as a place to live or work. Plus, every time a tall building is announced, it means more work for the elevator industry, so of course it’s of interest.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) naturally thinks about new skyscraper construction, as well, but in a new “Tall Buildings in Numbers” (TBIN) research study, the organization has identified the 100 tallest buildings ever to be purposely demolished. The resulting report examines these structures, as well as some of the reasons for bringing them down. The study also confirms that, if plans proceed as reported, 270 Park Avenue in New York City (NYC) will become the tallest building ever conventionally demolished, as well as the first building over 200 m in height to be peacefully razed.

Currently, the tallest building ever conventionally demolished is the Singer Building in NYC, which stood at 187 m and 41 stories tall until 1968, when it was torn down to make way for One Liberty Plaza. In fact, the study shows that the majority of the world’s 100 tallest demolished buildings were torn down to make way for new skyscrapers. Land constraints in dense cities and the potential for greater financial return than the current building offers can factor heavily in the decision to demolish a high-rise building, the report notes.

“In many cases, it does make sense to tear down and replace a high rise, especially if it’s outlived its practical usage,” said CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood. “However, there are currently more than 1,300 buildings of over 200 m in height around the globe, and counting. Considering the tallest demolished building to date was only 187 m tall, there’s really no precedent for tearing down 200-m-plus towers. We should perhaps thus be thinking of tall buildings as perpetual entities with lifecycles potentially exceeding 100 or 200 years, while designing them in such a way that they can be creatively adapted for potential future uses.”

According to the study, the average lifespan of the 100 tallest demolished buildings is only 41 years. North American cities account for 53 percent of the buildings, and more than a quarter of the 100 tallest demolished buildings were built between 1890 and 1920. At 24%, nearly as many of these high rises were built in the 1970s.

The full report is in the CTBUH Journal, 2018 Issue II.