DOTHAN, Ala. — A 132-year-old elevator inside a former downtown Dothan hardware store could be brought back into working condition, which would make it the oldest operating elevator from the company that manufactured it.
The Otis elevator inside the former Porter Hardware building on East Main Street still worked the last time it was used when the hardware store was still in business. The building is currently being renovated and repairing the elevator could add to the history being unearthed under layers of paint and dust.
The Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority has been in touch with the Otis Elevator Company about getting the elevator back into operating condition. If they do, it will be the oldest operating elevator in the world built by Otis, according to DDRA Chairman Pat Thomas. Currently, a passenger elevator at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, which dates back to 1889, is the oldest operating Otis elevator.
“The elevator hasn’t been in use for years,” Thomas said. “We do want it to be a working elevator, but we don’t want anybody on it.”
Though the idea is to make it work safely again, the elevator would become a static display that would be operational behind a glassed enclosure.
The elevator was used for years to carry freight between the first and second floor of the building and was originally built to be operated by hand using a rope and pulley system. An electric motor was later added and the elevator still worked when Porter Hardware stopped using it.
Before the project can move forward, the state elevator inspector will have to come to Dothan and look at it to determine what would need to be done to get it in working order again. If work can be done to get it operational, Otis may partner with the DDRA.
“Otis is very interested,” Thomas said. “It’s a big plus for their company, to have an elevator even older than they have now. They said they’d be very interested in doing this project for us, but they want to see what the state says first.”
There is no cost estimate yet on repairing the elevator and Otis hasn’t committed to the project.
According to the Otis Elevator Company’s website, the company is the “world’s largest manufacturer and maintainer of people-moving products, including elevators, escalators, and moving walkways.” The company was found more than 160 years ago.
The Porter Hardware building is being renovated in three phases, as funding become available. The first phase is currently underway, which includes roof work, repairs to two skylights, addition of a bathroom and offices, reworking the front facades that face East Main Street, and a general cleaning of the building. Work is being completed through $350,000 allocated by the Dothan City Commission.