We talked to Patrick Carrajat, founder and curator of the Elevator Historical Society in Queens, New York, about the ups and downs of his industry.
1. I’ve been in the elevator business since I was 11.
I started working with my dad, and the first day I worked with him, I collected my first piece of memorabilia. By the time I retired in 2008, I had acquired around 4,000 items. So I created my own museum.
2. Most of our visitors are non-elevator people.
They’re interested in architecture and the history of cities. Elevators reflect all of that. Without elevators, we wouldn’t have tall cities; we’d just have five- or six-story buildings from D.C. to Boston.
3. We’re in New York for several reasons.
It’s the birthplace of the safety device that made elevators safe for the public, exhibited in 1853. For most of the 20th century, New York held the record for the world’s tallest buildings. Whether it was the World Trade Center or the Woolworth Building, we were at the forefront of high-rise construction.
4. If I had to rescue anything from a fire,
I’d save my original Otis Brothers handout from 1868. It’s one of probably two we know exist. All of the elevators in the handout are steam-driven, as all elevators were until the 1870s, when hydraulics came in.
5. I’ve always wondered how many people met their significant other on an elevator.
You take the elevator at the same time every day, and you’re going to run into the same fellow or gal. I’ve met several people who say, “You know, it’s strange, we took the same elevator for six months before I asked if she wanted to have a drink with me after work.”
—As told to Bess Lovejoy