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Agincourt’s early elevators…

I was born with a birth defect, a partial club foot that required special shoes and a nighttime brace that kept my feet spaced apart and pointed outward. I endured that shit for several years.

A couple times a year, my mother would take me to a foot specialist on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. Other than a fluoroscope which revealed the bones in my feet in ghostly green, more vivid memories involved a ride on the “L” and second “ride” in the building elevators.

The elevators were grouped in banks of four or five, as I recall, in a large rectangular shaft lit from above or behind. Each elevator cab was an open grille-work box set next to other boxes which, as they passed one another going in opposite directions, made conversations wax and wane, and the counterweights and cables moved in contrary motion. Mesmerizing for a six-year-old and never equalled by the peas-in-a-bean-blower experience of newer, faster systems. What is mystical about stepping into a closet and having the door open somewhere else — unless you’re Dr Who.

Agincourt’s earliest passenger elevator was installed in the F+M+M Bank in 1908, which also boasted the city’s first revolving door. Each was a trap for ladies’ full skirts.

So the second elevator installation was unremarkable, except it only served the two library floors; that the equipment was located in the basement beneath it. I also suspect that the cab held one passenger at a time, and that children made nuisances of themselves treating it as a carnival ride until the novelty passed. Really, it was just an excuse for more metalwork in a remotely Sullivanesque style.

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