Even though they are unnoticed by an ordinary pedestrians, old steam powered elevators are the hidden treasure of St. Petersburg, Russia. Most of them are out of order, but there are some that still work, though elegant concierges are long gone.
It seems incredible now, but over a 100-200 years ago an elevator was a very luxurious phenomenon in Russia. It is believed that in 1793, the first elevating armchair was installed in the Winter Palace by inventor Ivan Kulibin for Ekaterina II. In 1826, the “imperial chair” was replaced by the cabin on a mechanical track.
The first elevators in Russia were very diverse. Often they were hydraulic: in them, piston used to raise and lower a cabin under pressure. Others, were steam-driven elevators; the lifting mechanism was operated by a steam machine. Some were operated by either the pistons or a rope. Later, with the development of electricity, hydroelectric powered elevators started to appear.
The oldest surviving elevator cabin is in the house of a merchant Mertens, located on Nevsky Prospect, 21. Mertens was a fur industrialist, rich and well-known man. So, in 1907, it was no surprise when an elevator exterior in his house was decorated with crystal glass. The cabin was finished with mahogany wood and it had a small sofa, upholstered with green leather. Surprisingly though, the mechanism of this elevator turned out to be one of the best. So much so, that It was restored only in 2007 for the elevator’s 100th anniversary. It has been working perfectly until then.
After a while, when the city started to grow and there was a need of multi floor houses, an elevators ceased to be a prerogative of a privileged people. ” Back then, landlords used to indicate the existence of an elevator and a concierge service in the ad, which meant the property was a high luxury housing’’- Sergei Kolesnik says. He is attempting to preserve the history of the city elevators. Also, he is a founder of the VKontakte community page “Photography Museum of St. Petersburg Elevators” and dreams of creating a real museum.
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Some images by karpovka.com