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St. Petersburg’s vintage elevators – keepers of history

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Vintage elevators are still operating in St. Petersburg’s historic city center. Many of them are more than a 100 years old. Many of these, so to speak, historic monuments are restored and maintained by residents.

Mariya Tikhonova, correspondent: “This is one of St. Petersburg’s most peculiar elevators – here, in the house of Mertens. It is over a hundred years old. It is unique because it has stayed unchanged both outside and inside. The shaft is made of real cut-glass. And everything here is exactly like in the year 1907. The cage made of redwood, green leather sofa. The only thing which was changed is the panel with buttons”

This lift was special even when it was built. A sophisticated house of a fur tycoon Mertens was supposed to a nonetheless sophisticated elevator. That’s why only expensive materials were used to build it. Its mechanism, by the way, turned out to be a quality one too. It was restored only for the elevator’s 100th birthday – in 2007. Up until then it had worked perfectly. 

Armen Yepremyan, CEO of elevator company: “The steering lines and an elevation mechanism – all were replaced with automated gear. So this is a modern elevator in a vintage shaft with a vintage cage”

The cage, by the way, is probably the only vintage one in the city, which is still operational. In an entourage like that one keeps thinking of making a time travel into the past.  

Heavy door with an armored plate is not an entrance to a room, as it may seem from the first glance, but into an elevator. This is a safe-elevator inside the house of Carl Faberge. Getting here is not easy even nowadays. Behind the fence is VIP section of a jewelry store, while in the past funds of the famous jeweler and his friends’ jewels had been kept here. In order to prevent break-ins into the elevator, the cage was stopped between the 1st and the 2nd floors and the shift lever was electrified. This electric trap once almost killed a manager of Faberge’s store. 

Valentin Skurlov, jewelry historian: “To descend the elevator, he put on rubber gloves. Once he forgot to put them on and he was struck with electricity. So hard that he was thrown back a few meters”

The Vitebskiy train station at the Zagorodniy avenue is also famous for its peculiar elevators. A cargo elevating machine stands next to train tracks. Its insides were changed long ago, but its shaft is a historic attribute. Every single one of these forged flowers are protected by the state. 

Artem Felistovich, head engineer of passenger transportation department at the Vitebsky train station: “The peculiarity of the Vitebskiy station was that trains departed from a second floor. Because the Obvodny and Vvedenskiy canals are situated nearby. That’s why it was difficult to service the cargo bay, that’s why cargo elevators were installed”

The elevator inside the Eliseeyv house at Lomonosova avenue 14, has been a joy for many generations of its residents. It was set up in the end of the 19th century. Now a soviet electricity-run cage is operating in a vintage round shaft. Before that the elevator was steam-run. 

Sergey Kolesnik, elevator mechanic: “A steam engine enabled the elevation. It was controlled by a lever – an elevator engineer or a lackey turned the lever and it stopped at a certain point”

Sergey Kolesnik has been repairing modern elevators, but he’s in love with vintage mechanisms. He created a group on a social network website with a photo exhibition and created a little museum in a corner of his workshop. All items on display he personally took out of restoration specialists’ hands, sometime with a scandal. Unique parts of vintage elevators could have been recycled.

Sergey Kolesnik, elevator mechanic:  “For some reason, no-one is paying attention to them. However, 15-20 years ago we had real museum items as elevators in our city”

No-one has time to look after these museum items. Working condition of elevators with a rich history is provided by those who own those vintage buildings.

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