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Elevators at Gadsden Hotel in Douglas, Arizona

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In 2012, my wife, Dottie, and I visited the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas, Arizona. Built more than 100 years ago, this historic building has several historical aspects worth sharing, including its elevators. The five-story hotel was destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in 1929. Recognized as a National Historic site, the Gadsden gained considerable notoriety when, as legend has it, the infamous Pancho Villa rode his horse up the grand staircase of the lobby, chipping a few of the step edges, which remain chipped today. A sign located near the steps tells the story.

The building is made of structural steel and reinforced concrete and features various fine materials and fixtures such as marble, copper, and designer murals and paintings. According to the hotel, many celebrities have visited the Gadsden throughout the years, some claiming to have seen a ghost.

Just inside the hotel lobby, there sits an old Otis governor, which was installed when the hotel was first built in 1907. There are two operational elevators in the hotel; one passenger car and a small freight car. Some veterans of the elevator industry will remember working on equipment like these units. By chance, the elevator mechanic was on site; however, he was leaving to respond to another service call and was not able to provide a tour of the machine room. According to the mechanic, who worked for a small, two-person company, Otis maintained the units for most of their life, until the 1990s. He claimed the hotel started using smaller elevator companies about 20 years ago; however, vintage replacement parts have been purchased from the Otis Service Center, as well as other industry suppliers. As can be seen on one of the signs, the hotel does not allow passengers to operate the elevator cars. If anyone gets a chance to visit the area, the hotel and its elevators are worth touring.

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