A couple weeks ago Mike Ference and I visited an advertising and PR agency in downtown Cleveland. The office is on the sixth floor, so, naturally, we'd take the elevator. We entered the Artcraft Building on Superior Ave., but instead of seeing the usual bank of elevators, we saw a single wooden and glass door with a button next to it.
I pushed the button, and within a few seconds, the elevator arrived. Much to my surprise, an operator was inside. I thought these were all long gone. An operator pulled a lever, which opened the doors. The operator also controlled which floor the elevator would go to.
The operator's name is John, and he said the building opened in 1919, so the elevators are 91 years old. I think John siad it was a shirt factory until the 1950s. It has since been converted to offices and studios. But the original elevators are still intact. (There's an identical elevator at another entrance to the building.)
John works the lever that opens and closes the door (it's purely mechanical). Second lever controls the elevator car, making it go up or down at John's command. Passengers simply tell John what floor they want to go to. When someone needs the elevator, they push a button next to the door. This rings a bell and illuminates a light corresponding to the floor the person is on. When John hears the bell, he looks to see what number light is lit, the takes the elevator to that floor. Once he arrives, he opens the door and greetspassengers.
Click here to see a video of the elevator in action.