Story By: Ana Marjanovic, Sub-Editor: Michael Leidig, Agency: Newsflash
A curious student researching historic buildings has discovered the world’s oldest functioning paternoster lift.
Art history student Robin Augenstein, 32, studied construction plans of houses built in the port area of Hamburg, northern Germany, for a seminar at university four years ago.
He noticed that historic blueprints of a heritage-protected building called Flueggerhaus situated at Roedlingsmarkt Square featured a paternoster lift.
Paternosters are the earliest form of an elevator, dating back to the 1860s.
Intrigued Augenstein asked the city’s monument protection authority for permission to search the six-storey building, constructed in 1908.
After getting the go-ahead, the student called up the building’s current landlord to ask him whether he would join him on his expedition.
Augenstein said: “We grabbed our torches and walked downstairs, into the cellar.
“Suddenly we were standing in front of these really old gear wheels. It was just amazing.”
Augenstein said they discovered the paternoster behind a makeshift wooden wall. It is believed that the lift had been out of service for around 40 years.
However, the current property owner already made clear that no one except tenant and employees of offices situated in the building would be allowed to use it.
The 14-cabin paternoster is currently undergoing extensive restoration carried out by a specialised company based near Stuttgart in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Experts – who completely dismantled the impressive construction – think they can put the paternoster back into operation by September.
Local media report that there were around 100 operating paternoster elevators in Hamburg in 1900.
There are currently more than 300 operating paternosters in the world, most of them in Europe.
The Flueggerhaus paternoster is now considered the oldest functioning paternoster lift in the world.
Previously, a paternoster from 1910 situated in the Austrian capital Vienna has had this reputation.
The Viennese paternoster is still operating at the headquarters of the Federation of Austrian Industries located at Schwarzenberg Square in the city centre.
A paternoster is a passenger elevator which consists of a chain of open compartments that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping.
Passengers can step on or off any floor they like.
The name paternoster derives from ‘Our Father’, the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer.
The construction of new paternosters was stopped in the mid-1970s out of concern for safety, but public sentiment has kept many of the remaining examples open.
British architect and inventor Peter Ellis (1805-1884) installed the first elevators that could be described as paternoster lifts in Oriel Chambers, Liverpool office building, in Liverpool in 1868.
Most of the remaining paternosters are situated in Europe.