Commutes are almost always a mundane part of city dwellers’ lives, so it’s a rarity to find a mode of transportation that’s also an attraction. But the journey up the Fine Arts Building’s 127-year-old elevators may be just as memorable as the destination. These are the oldest elevators in Chicago, among the few that still have human operators.
Three of the four original elevators at the Fine Arts Building (410 S. Michigan) are still in operation, and all three stop at each of the ten floors. Built in 1885 by architect Solon Spencer Beman, the building was converted from the Studebaker Building, where carriages were assembled and showcased, into the Fine Arts Building in 1898. There’s also a defunct freight elevator inside the closed-down Studebaker Theatre.
The elevators are electric, with each generator in the basement. The chains and cables that pull the carts up are visible when looking down the elevator shaft.
The bronze exterior has endured but darkened in color with time, and the insides of the elevators retain their original features as well, though building manager Christopher Bertucci says their floors will be refurbished within the next three to four months.
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