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Chicago — An Illustrious History

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More elevator-industry history has been written in the Chicago environs than in any other place in North America. We focus this month on America’s second city with a special section. My father called it the “Crown Jewel of Elevatoring.” Because of the great fire of 1871, more than 30% of the buildings in Chicago were destroyed, so the area is known more for the originality of its buildings, rather than their antiquity. Its loss of 3,000 buildings spawned a group of architects, now known as the “First Chicago School,” the work of which would have a profound effect upon architecture and, thus, our industry. The new buildings were steel to prevent fire. The decade after the fire was a boom time for Chicago, and by 1890, it surpassed Philadelphia to become the nation’s second-largest metropolis. Between 1885 and 1895, there were more steel-frame high-rise buildings in Chicago than in all of the U.S. This was the birth of the skyscraper (impossible without the elevator industry), and, of course, Chicago held the title of world’s tallest building (the Sears [now Willis] Tower) for almost 25 years.

To cover this special issue on Chicago, we solicited feedback from readers in the area but also sent two ELEVATOR WORLD staffers (Kaija Wilkinson and Caleb Givens) out for a week each to interview and visit as many of the “Chicagoland” elevator people as possible. They could have both spent much longer, but there is only so much room in one book. This is an area, like New York City, that we will have to revisit many times.

The special section begins with the History of CEA by Hanno van der Bijl. The Chicago Elevator Association (CEA) is the oldest association in the industry, and the article outlines many of the elevatoring firsts that occurred in Chicago. CEA was originally a manufacturers association, but it evolved to cover all the industry in the area. This association, like many in the industry, supports our charity, the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF). During Wilkinson’s week in Chicago, the association had its EESF Chicago Cruise on Land that raised US$12,000 for the Foundation. Chicago in the Spotlight notes that the elevator market is “white hot,” with a boom in rentals, hotels and migration of corporate headquarters to downtown. All the major OEMs had praise for the robust market. Still, as Wilkinson outlines, Chicago has issues with unemployment, gun violence and a low credit rating the city government is working to improve.

In Independent Spirit, both Wilkinson and Givens interviewed many of the successful component suppliers, contractors and independent manufacturers in Chicago. Most say that business in the area is as good as it was prerecession – sometimes too good! Speaking of interviews, Wilkinson talked with Jim Peskuski of Matot in Not Monkeying Around. He gave her his best story in 45 years of work. I’m not going to spoil the story – except to say there were real monkeys involved. Rick Stumpf, with Adams, in another interview, says he is In a Good Place. He has led the company for 11 years, and, with a background in engineering, says he knows how it all fits together. Adams, Stumpf says, specializes in having the part the customer needs on the shelf 97% of the time. A Beacon on the Riverfront tells the installation epic of River Point, the thyssenkrupp job on prime property overlooking the Chicago River. The 730-ft.-tall office tower has 30 momentum elevators and two escalators to be turned over in November. Looking Forward is a Company Spotlight on Vator Accessories, owned by Lisa Grimes. A child of the industry, daughter to Michelle Virchinsky-Wieckowski and stepdaughter to Frank Wieckowski, she knows how to keep her own children occupied in the shop. Her small company has rapidly gone from four product lines to 35. We are pleased to have an additional 500 copies of this issue going out to Chicago building owners and architects.

We also report on three major events in this issue: WEE Expo 2016 in Shanghai by our correspondent, Peng Jie; Elevcon 2016 in Madrid, three days of outstanding presentations sponsored by the International Association of Elevator Engineers, and reported on by our Lee Freeland; and the ISO/TC 178 Plenary Meeting in Australia by Louis Bialy. The latter provides a major opportunity for experts around the world to improve understanding between themselves on codes, standards and cultures.

We also publish the EW Photo Contest 2016 Winners in this issue. This is judged entirely by our readers, who vote online for their favorites. We had more than 200 entries this year and thousands of voters. We present 12 pages of winners, with the balance online at www.elevatorworld.com/photocontest. Every year, I am amazed at the beauty to be found in our industry. One of the winners graces our cover this month. We hope you enjoy all the hard work that went into this issue.

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Elevator World | August 2016 Cover

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