Is This The Most Beautiful Elevator In New York?

A few days ago, I was in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building waiting to speak with the doorman when I happened to notice an old elevator in the corner. I stuck my head in to take a look…


This is hands-down the most beautiful elevator I’ve ever come across in NYC.


From the ornamentation to the green leather seat – and it’s still manually operated:


According to the manufacturer’s plaque, this was built by the A. B. See Elevator Company, and I’m assuming dates to the early 1900s.

I’ve seen a lot of New York’s elevators in my scouting travels, and while I’ve come across some pretty impressive examples, this has them all beat. If you know of another you’d consider to be even better, please tell me, because I’d love to see it.

Somewhat related: this is easily the weirdest elevator in New York.


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  1. We should really take up a collection to buy them an elevator phone that fits the aesthetic. But yes, it’s really gorgeous.

    • I’d bet some steampunk artisan would jump at the chance to make a brass videophone, particularly one that would see actual use.

  2. Interesting Wikipedia entry on A. B. See.

  3. Would it be possible to tell us what building this is? It looks an awful lot like the elevator in the UWS building where I grew up. I love those old elevators.

  4. It’s maybe not quite as elegant, but the cage elevator in the restored Williamsburgh Savings Bank building in Williamsburg should give it a run for the money. One of only three cage elevators left in the city, I was told.

  5. I think I have been in this elevator! I was looking at an apartment on the UWS just on Central Park on West 67th Street. The apartment was a mess but the building was wonderful, should have bought it!

  6. I think this was a fairly common design in NYC buildings circa 1920, actually. In fact, the operator-driven elevator in the otherwise-drab old bank I used to work in, in the island between 41st/42nd and 7th/Broadway, (9th Federal Savings and Loan) had exactly the same design and operational mechanism. Except it was smaller, and had no bench. Sadly, the entire building is gone now. But your elevator is just a larger version of that one, with the added bench.

  7. I’ve only been for work meetings, and I’m not sure if they do tours since it’s a fully functioning office space used by the city and a public school, but the elevator at the Tweed Courthouse is unreal. No seat, and not manually operated, but just as ornate and awesome as this one. The whole building is pretty amazing, if you can ever get yourself an in.

  8. Here some pics of the Tweed Courthouse lift, sorry elevator…….

  9. Hahaha I am in this elevator all the time! What a delight to see it pop up here 🙂

  10. There is a building in Astoria (triangle shape) at Astoria Blvd and 27th Avenue. It had a elevator similar to this one, also manually operated. I remember riding in it when I was a kid. I hear it is still there, but the landlord blocked it off to keep it safe. Not sure if that is truth or rumor.

  11. The A. B. See Company? I call shenanigans. For my money, the coolest throwback elevator coordinates perfectly with the matching Art Deco lobby at 608 Fifth, designed by a student of Brandt:

  12. I am fond of 37 West 44th Street.

  13. I am the curator of the Elevator Museum in Long Island City. The phone is required by Code and could have been done much better. Equally offensive is the annunciator (the ugly aluminum thing with red LED’s, ugh). If the building would like a free consultant I would be pleased to assist them in making this beauty reflective of its time. If anyone would like to visit the Elevator Museum please check out our website or just Google “Elevator Museum LIC”. Contact me for a free link to my book on the history of the American Elevator Industry….
    patrick@elevatorhistory.orgor call 718.361.8683

  14. Admission is free at the Elevator Museum and we are open on Saturdays by appointment. Normal hours are 9:30-4:30 M-F but confirmation a day or two ahead is suggested.

  15. 245 park avenue…elevators ,vaulted hand painted ceilings..very beautifully done…worked for Harry Helmsley at the time…really like ur web site..noticed a mention of WPA out Staten Island boro hall..firth off the ferry

  16. Always wanted to take a trip in an elevators with a seat! Would make a great setting for a film scene.

  17. Hey Nick You need to check out the Sherry Netherland Hotel. One of their many gorgeous elevators is actually salvaged from the long-gone, massive Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion what was just across/south of the hotel. The CVII house, demolished in 1925 to erect the Bergdorf Goodman store, was (and still is) the largest home ever erected in Manhattan! The elevator is stunning. 🙂