Any building in New Jersey that is taller than, say, five stories usually has an elevator—and often, new buildings of even three stories have an elevator. If you live in a high rise co-op or condo building on Palisade Avenue in Fort Lee, chances are that you use an elevator every day.
Chances are also that you don’t give much thought to it, and when you look at the inspection report posted inside the elevator cab, you don’t spend much time analyzing it. Yet, elevators are essential to any mid-rise or high-rise apartment building. See how upset people are when their elevator is out of service for even a few hours!
In the Beginning
There have been elevator-like hoist devices throughout history, but in 1853, American inventor Elisha Otis invented a freight elevator equipped with a safety device to prevent the elevator from falling in case a cable broke. This advancement paved the way for elevators to become commonplace in commercial and then residential buildings.
While the first passenger elevator was installed in a New York City department store, the first passenger elevator for residential buildings came into general use around 1877. But before World War I, elevators were still fairly rare and confined to upscale apartment houses, prestigious office buildings and fancy department stores. Many of the elevators of that period resembled luxurious drawing rooms, with small couches, wood paneling and uniformed operators.
Today, we see two basic types of elevators—hydraulic and “rope-driven.” One far-reaching change in the elevator industry, as in all industries, has been computerization. Whereas elevators 40 years ago or so were either controlled by relays or by an older type of solid-state controls, according to Brian Black, code and safety consultant for National Elevator Industry Inc., they are almost all computerized nowadays. That said, according to Black, “most elevators of any age are not obsolete. You can modernize systems; modernize old relay systems with a computer. Many elevators are being modernized on a regular basis. There’s no reason any elevator should be obsolete.”