Oldest Running Elevators in the World

Oldest Running Elevators in the World

If you are anything like me and grew up watching Kate & Leopold, then there’s a chance that you believed the first ever elevator in the world was the Otis elevator. But, this is far from the truth. Elevators have been around for much, much longer than we think – the first one can be traced back to 236 BC. 

These elevators were a simple affair – cabs operated by hemp ropes. (Don’t worry, it is way more advanced now!)

Let’s check out the oldest running elevators in the world to catch a glimpse into the past!

Oldest Running Elevators in the World

6. The Jerome Grand Hotel, Arizona (1926)

The Jerome Grand Hotel, Arizona (1926)Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Jerome, Arizona saw its first self-service elevator in 1926. It was installed in the building that now hosts The Jerome Grand Hotel. 

Before it was taken over Chris Altherr to become The Jerome Grand Hotel, this building was the United Verde Hospital. The elevator carried patients, nurses and doctors from the emergency room on the ground floor to one of the 52 beds on the higher level floors. 

After the hospital closed down, it remained shut for four decades before Chris Altherr took over. The hotel kept the elevator as is. They give their guests elevator keys that take them to their room.

5. The Majestic Building, Wyoming (1907)

This is where you can find the oldest running elevator in the west! It definitely holds up to the name, with its antique frame, copper panels and top dome shape. There is also a special operator who controls the buttons and the accordion-like door.

This elevator can only host a maximum of seven people at a time. How small is that! 

Before this building became The Majestic Building with a bunch of office spaces, it was the First National Bank of Cheyenne. The elevator adds a touch of whimsy to the now office space.

4. City Hall, Massachusetts (1906)

City Hall, Massachusetts (1906)Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

The oldest elevator in Massachusetts, this one is in the shape of a semi-circle. It has been in continuous working condition since its installation in 1906. 

Earlier, it was used by top officials of the government but now, it is ridden mainly by children and adults for fun. Because of this, Massacheusetts City Hall has become something of an attraction in the city. 

However, the contraption has been facing some technical and mechanical issues lately, bringing its safety into question. 

3. 210 Riverside Drive, New York

New York City has so many popular attractions, it only seems fitting that it also has a famous elevator, right? 

Situated at 210 Riverside Drive, on the Upper West Side, this is a manual elevator operated by a technician. There is a lever that makes the machine go up and down, instead of buttons. The doorman also opens and closes the door of the elevator manually. 

This seems like a pretty standard old elevator, so what’s so special about it? This vintage elevator was used for a couple of scenes in the popular 1998 movie, You’ve Got Mail, and is the one Tom Hanks famously got stuck inside!

2. Biltmore Estate, North Carolina (1895)

Biltmore Estate, North CarolinaPhoto Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, besides having stunning interiors and breathtaking outdoors, hosts two elevators that was installed in 1895! The estate, with its old-world, antique charm was home to George Washington Vanderbilt II in 1889. 

The renowned art collector’s style shines through the entire majestic building, so it seems only fitting that the people who cared for the estate afterwards retained the Otis elevators. They add a little bit of history to the timelessness of the palatial house. 

Now, the elevators only service visitors with disabilities. It takes them to the first and second floors of the estate.

1. Sinai, Egypt (527 AD)

Remember the pulley elevators I mentioned in the introduction of the article? Well, there is still one in existence, if you can believe it, and it’s functional too, making this the OLDEST running elevator in the world!

Installed in St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, Egypt, this elevator was constructed with one purpose in mind – to help monks escape to safety during the Byzantium reign of Emperor Justinian. 

The elevator works in a pulley system – where monks can quickly be ushered into safety (or step out of the monastery) with the help of people standing on the other side of the wall pulling them over the wall. 

Now that’s one way to make an entrance, am I right?

The monastery has several other entrances now, but this pulley elevator still functions for those who want to try it out!


Who knew something as mundane as elevators could have such a rich history? 

Like every other architectural feat in existence, each functional elevator listed in this article also carries remnants of its time. Whether it be through copper wreaths, top domes, accordion-shaped doors, or semi-circle interiors, these installations remind us of the beauty of the past. 

Have you ridden in one of these elevators? Tell us in the comments below!

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