Eiffel tower

The story of the New York building that inspired the Eiffel Tower

The introduction of what was essentially a skyscraper meant people had to find a way to get to the top. And while the populace might have been healthier in those days, all those stairs were still no fun. A New York Times reporter who made the trip reported, “The climb is a bit strenuous, but it helps the digestion” (via “Rising Rooms to Express Elevators”).

Other publications were quick to reassure their readers that you didn’t have to suffer so much to get to the top…if you were brave enough. A state-of-the-art device, the elevator, would be installed in the Latting observatory. “At distances of 100, 200, and 300 feet, passengers will be transported by steam car to the landings,” Scientific American explained. The New York Times expanded on this description a bit, writing, “A shaft 15 feet in diameter will be carried the entire way, through which figures will be hoisted to the various landings.” For those who didn’t like the sound, however, “There will also be a spiral staircase.” But there was no need to be afraid, promised the New York Mirror (reprinted in the Natchez Daily Courier), since, in the elevator, one could “sit comfortably and safely, and be gently raised by steam to the highest apartment”.

However, while Elisha Otis has definitely demonstrated her lift in the nearby Crystal Palace exhibition center (pictured), ‘From Ascending Rooms…’ thinks there is reasonable doubt these lifts were ever installed as promised in the observatory.