Close Lift Selector

The Oldest Running Elevators in the World

Elevators have been a part of our history much longer than many people believe. The earliest precursors of the elevator, dating back to 236 BC, were nothing more than cabs operated by hemp rope pulled by human hands or animals. Of course, more modern elevators – that do not require manual labour – came after, and today, we have some of the most efficient elevators in the world here at Axess2 as a result.

With the technological advancements of today, it can be easy to forget how different the designs and functions of lifts were when they were first invented. Today, we have lifts that glide to the top of the tallest buildings at impressive speeds that would have seemed impossible even a couple of decades ago.

Although we may trust them a little less than their modern counterparts, some historic elevators are still running well into their golden years. Here’s a look at the two oldest running elevators in the world.

Lift Shaft

Sinai, Egypt

To take a ride on one of the world’s oldest (if not the oldest) elevators you must travel to St Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, Egypt. Built as a form of elaborate fortification during the Byzantium reign of Emperor Justinian, it was constructed alongside an intricate series of walls in 527 AD. It was constructed as a means to save lives, pulling monks over the monasteries walls in times of attack or battle to safety.

Unlike modern elevators, the Sinai monastery elevator is pulley-operated, allowing the monks to lift those who they wanted to enter the walls up into the monastery. The visitor could then only leave in exactly the same way. Perhaps one of the most elaborate front doors in history!

Today, there have been additional entrances made for the monastery. However, this lift still exists at the side of the monastery and is still operational, although the pulleys and cab have no doubt seen many iterations over the centuries.

Washington, DC

A more modern example of an elevator that is still functional despite being older than any human alive today is the Otis elevator. Located in the Potbelly Sandwich Shop in Washington, D.C. this is a lift that seems very unassuming upon first glance. Open-caged and beautiful, this elevator was installed in 1853 and thus pre-dates the American Civil War by almost a decade.

It even predates the increase in sales of the Otis elevator, which skyrocketed in 1854 as a result of its display at the New York World Exposition. Examples of Otis elevators can be found in many places across the world, including the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower.

As a piece of significant historical interest, it has earned National Historic status and therefore cannot be removed by whoever buys the property. It is likely to remain a functioning testament to elevator ingenuity for many years to come, and long may it rise to the occasion!

It is remarkable how these lifts have stood the test of time and are still functioning today. Here are some honourable mentions of some of the oldest operating elevators:

City Hall, Massachusetts

Originally a library, this stunning building boasts a semi-circular elevator, installed in 1906 that still runs today. Due to its unique shape, it has become a popular tourist attraction.

The Jerome Grand Hotel – Arizona

This hotel was originally a hospital when first built in 1926. The installed elevator moves at a slow pace due to its original function – transporting sick patients. If you like your ghost stories, this is an elevator to experience, as legend says it is haunted!

We understand the importance of past innovations in creating a more advanced future, as it is from the past that we learn and gain inspiration, so contact us today to learn more about our high-quality passenger lifts!


This entry was posted in Lift Facts. Bookmark the permalink.

  • Trafford Centre logo
    Westfield London logo
    Liverpool logo
    Next logo
    Apple logo
    Gap logo
    M&S logo
    Omega logo