March 23 - 1857 - The Otis Co. Installs the First Commercial Elevator

Elisha Graves Otis did not invent the elevator, which actually date back to antiquity, but invented something much more important, a safety brake. With Otis' invention, an elevator could now be guaranteed not to regularly crash to the floor. At first, people were still uncertain about the design, but through an ingenious demonstration at the 1854 New York World's Fair, Otis proved that his elevators were remarkably safe. Still, only warehouses and large industrial firms wanted Otis' elevators, which make for an extremely limited market for elevators. That would change in 1857 with the installation of an elevator from the Otis Co. in the E.V. Haughwout & Co. store in Lower Manhattan. A brand new Renaissance Revival building for the country's leader in fine cutlery, china, and cut glass, the Haughwout Building soon became famous for its enclosed elevator. After the popularity of this elevator, the Otis Co. was able to sell hundreds and then thousands of elevators to commercial buyers in the next few decades. Not only did this make the Otis Co. a successful company, but it transformed the very nature of urban architecture.

William Floyd