Otis Elevators in Empire State Building Get Their Due in New Exhibit

On July 29, visitors to the world-famous Empire State Building in NYC have the opportunity to embark on a “journey from the building’s construction to its place in pop culture today.” For elevator (and history, design and technology) enthusiasts, that journey includes a brand-new Otis display, which Otis states “showcases our rich history with this iconic building, as well as our latest technology that transports more than 10 million people each year . . . .” A few years ago, Otis won a hotly competitive contract to modernize the 68-elevator system, a job that included restoration of the Art Deco elevator lobby. At the time, it was the biggest elevator modernization in Otis’ 158-year history. Available with the purchase of a ticket to the Empire State Building’s 86th-floor observatory, the Otis elevator display allows guests to walk through a simulation of an elevator shaft. The display showcases not only how the original elevators operated, but the new technology installed. The new 2nd Floor Exhibits also include vivid, action-packed looks at the site in the 1920s, construction of the buildings, major tenant spaces, most famous celebrity visitors (with signed memorabilia) and, of course, King Kong!! If you’re in NYC, be sure to check it out.

A virtual elevator shaft can be experienced as part of Otis’ new display in the 2nd Floor Exhibits at the Empire State Building in NYC; image courtesy of Empire Realty Trust.
Otis’ new display in the Empire State Building’s 2nd Floor Exhibits offer a trip through time and an in-depth look at the landmark’s elevator system; image courtesy of Empire Realty Trust.

Smithsonian.com Explores the “Strange World That is the Escalator”

Detail from Jesse Reno’s 1902 patent for the “Inclined Elevator”; U.S. Patent 708,663 via Smithsonian.com

Smithsonian.com recently explored the “strange world that is the escalator” in “How the Escalator Forever Changed Our Sense of Space.” The piece takes readers through the early history of the invention, from a never-realized 1859 patent for “revolving stairs,” to Jesse Reno’s mechanical escalator that debuted to awestruck crowds in Coney Island, New York, to the piece of machinery most similar to the escalator of today — conceived by Charles Seeberger around the same time as Reno’s invention and acquired and marketed by Otis. The escalator stole the spotlight at the Paris Exposition of 1900, and quickly proved transformative to retail, the workplace and public transportation.

Of the Paris Expo, Smithsonian observed:

“Organizers and government officials were concerned how this exposition would make its mark — after the introduction of the Eiffel Tower at the fair in 1889, how could the [fair] 11 years later complete? Officials entertained many bizarre proposals, many of which involved alterations of the Eiffel Tower itself including the potential additions of clocks, sphinxes, terrestrial globes, and a 450-ft. statue of a woman with eyes made from powerful searchlights to scan the 562-acre fairgrounds.” It ended up, however, that the escalator “shone brightest” at the expo, winning Grand Prize and a Gold Metal for its “unique and functional design”

Otis trademarked the name “escalator,” but, like cellophane, kitty litter and aspirin, the term became so ubiquitous that competitor Haughton — since acquired by Schindler — successfully petitioned the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark. Today, Otis and Schindler continue to be major players in a world in which the number of escalators doubles every 10 years.

thyssenkrupp escalator installation in Germany; photo courtesy of thyssenkrupp

NEII Graphic Tells the Story of an Unsung Hero: Codes

The National Elevator Industry, Inc. (NEII) recently released its latest infograpic that tells the story of how proper building codes and standards not only help keep us safe, but enable innovation in new and modernized buildings. According to NEII, codes are, in some ways, the unsung heroes and advocates of modern, urban environments. The graphic also shares some of the history and process of code development. Check it out below!