(MCT) The types of elevators a community has used in its history can tell you something about its fascination with upward mobility.
In the 19th century in Schuylkill County, the industrial revolution brought water locks to the Schuylkill Canal and pulley systems to anthracite mines, Dr. Peter Yasenchak, executive director of the Schuylkill County Historical Society, said Tuesday.
"In 1846, the first shaft was dug in Saint Clair. The workers were lowered down on a pulley system. It was an elevator referred to as a cage," Yasenchak said.
Today, the variety is much more diverse. For example, there are personnel elevators more than 20 stories high in the 64 skyscraper-sized windmills in northern Schuylkill County. And Dr. Whitney E. Pollock of Pottsville has a two-story elevator at her office, which she considers a prized antique.
Its interior is lined with sheets of beige marble. She said she spent $100,000 to put a new motor in it in 2008, and it was ready to use when she opened The Gynecology Center in April 2009.
"It might be from the 1930s. It was brought here from Wanamaker's in Philadelphia years ago. When I bought the building here in 2008, it was here, boarded up and it was not functional. So it's something old and something new," Pollock said Tuesday.
There are 490 elevators in 305 locations in Schuylkill County. Of those, 47 elevators are out of service, according to a 21-page report provided by the state Department of Labor and Industry Bureau of Occupational and Industrial Safety, Harrisburg, on Nov. 20.
There are 443 elevators in service in Schuylkill County, according to the report.
Here is a list of the following types of elevators in the county and how many of each type is in service: passenger elevators, 217; freight elevators, 41; combination passenger/freight elevators, 15; stair lifts, 37; dumbwaiters, 15; wheelchair lifts, 32; material lifts, 7; special purpose personnel elevators, 66; limited use/limited access elevators, 3; man lifts, 1; personal service elevators, 5; sidewalk freight elevators, 1; special purpose industrial service elevators, 1; and vertical reciprocating conveyors, 2.
The Schuylkill County Historical Society does not have a written history of elevators in Schuylkill County on file, according to Yasenchak. He wasn't sure one was ever written.
But information about the county's elevators can be found in a few sources.
According to Valerie E. Macdonald, president of the Greater Shenandoah Area Historical Society, the one at the society's headquarters at 201 S. Main St. in Shenandoah was installed in 1904.
It's out of service, and has been since the society acquired the building in 2005, Mary Luscavage, executive director of Downtown Shenandoah Inc., said Tuesday.
In Downtown Pottsville, the oldest elevator may be the one in the Thompson Building at 101 W. Market St., Jim Hanlon, 57, of Port Carbon, said Tuesday. He's been an elevator repairman for Otis Elevator for 20 years.
The Thompson Building is the city's first skyscraper, according to "Pottsville in the Twentieth Century," an Images of America Book written by Mark T. Major and Leo L. Ward.
"It's hard to say exactly when it was installed, but I'd say the oldest in the city is probably Thompson's. It actually has two motors, one motor to drive the car and a second motor for leveling the elevator. Somebody actually has to drive that car," Hanlon said.
In 2010, the Otis-brand elevator at the Thompson Building was shut down when Michael V. Farinola, an inspector hired by the state Department of Labor and Industry, determined it couldn't lift the 2,500 pound limit it was required to.
"The elevator itself is not broken there. It just doesn't meet the weight requirements. It won't lift what it's supposed to lift," Donald J. Chescavage, city code enforcement officer, said Nov. 26.
The building is owned by Lorenzo Tosco Sr., Collegeville, Montgomery County, and his two sons, Anthony and Lorenzo Jr., who bought the building in March 2011 for $80,000.
Lorenzo Jr. said Monday he knew the building was built in 1909, but wasn't sure when the elevator was installed.
Hanlon said elevators at the Thompson Building, the eight-story Schuylkill Trust Co. Building at 101 N. Centre St., and at the home of Klingaman's Office Products at 14 N. Centre St., Pottsville, were installed "either in the 1920s or 1930s."
The one at Klingaman's has been out of service for more than 20 years, Hanlon said.
In the 1990s, artist David W. Naydock, Pottsville, painted a mural on the interior of the antique elevator at the Schuylkill Trust building.
"He made it look like a library. That fascinated me. I thought that was pretty cool," Hanlon said.
That elevator was one of the attractions at a event held in May to celebrate Naydock's life. He died Jan. 20 at Schuylkill Medical Center-South Jackson Street at age 52.
That elevator was shut down over the summer, according to a note taped to it. Meanwhile, a newer model elevator is in use at the Schuylkill Trust building.
Hanlon wasn't sure what the oldest elevator in operation was in Schuylkill County.
He said most elevators are marked with the date of their installation, but not all.
For example, when he checked the tag on the freight elevator at The Republican-Herald building at 111 Mahantongo St., Pottsville, on Tuesday, he couldn't find a date of installation.
"I'd say it was put in sometime in the 1920s, maybe," he said.
The Warsaw-brand freight elevator at the D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. brewery at 5th and Mahantongo streets is also a candidate, he said.
"I'm sure it was installed sometime in the 1920s as well," Hanlon said.
John Callahan, Yuengling brewmaster, said Tuesday, "It was installed around 1930."
A freight elevator built in 1953 is in use at Victory Garage at 119 E. Oak St., Shenandoah, according to the owner, Michael J. Kitsock, Pottsville.
"It would be hard to find parts for an elevator like that these days. Parts from that era just aren't available. In changing times, society expects you to upgrade," Hanlon said.
Local electricians have kept the freight elevator running for 60 years, Kitsock said Tuesday.
The elevators with the tallest shafts in Schuylkill County may belong to the windmills, which accent the skyline in the area of Shenandoah and Mahanoy City, according to Paul Copleman, communications manager at Iberdrola Renewables Inc., Wells, Maine.
Iberdrola owns the 13 windmills at Locust Ridge I in Mahanoy City and the 51 windmills at Locust Ridge II which stretchfrom Shenandoah into Colombia County, Copleman said.
"The elevators in the wind turbines are used to bring people, tools and small parts to the nacelle of the turbine. The nacelle is the box at the top of the tower that houses the gearbox. They can hold two people, or a little more than 500 pounds. The towers, not including the blades, are 78 meters 256 feet high, and the elevator goes almost to the top, so the elevator height is roughly 70 meters. One of our windmills is roughly 23 stories high, so the elevators shafts would be about 20 stories high. So, they may be the tallest elevator shafts in Schuylkill County," Copleman said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services