A partial chronicle of an early Wisconsin elevator company accompanies gracious photo donation.
Roesselet was kind enough to donate the four photos in this article to ELEVATOR WORLD. They will be preserved in our offices and are available for industry use upon request. . . . Editor
A. Kieckhefer Elevator Co. was started by August Kieckhefer in 1882. I do not know if the buildings depicted are the original or a later location of the company. Though not dated, the photos appear to be from the late 1920s or early 1930s. Someone familiar with automobiles from that time may be able to date the pictures by the cars and company truck on the street. The picture of the shop shows the outdoor freight elevator to the right of the building. It was used to move equipment and materials to the second floor.
The company continued at the St. Paul Avenue location until 1964, when the buildings were torn down for the construction of the Marquette Interchange between Interstates 94 and 894 on the south side of downtown Milwaukee. Later, its entire operation was moved to 1910 South 81st Street. August Kieckhefer passed away before the relocation, and one of his three sons, Henry Kieckhefer, took over as president. One of his own sons, Henry, Jr., worked at the company as outside superintendent in charge of installation, service and repair.
When I joined the company in January 1967, Henry, Sr. had passed away, and the president was George Zeman. Secretary/treasurer was Elmer Wustrack. During this time, Kieckhefer Elevator manufactured elevator equipment under its own name. It was known for building freight elevators, both traction and hydraulic. Its equipment was used by almost all the major paper mills, breweries and manufacturing companies in Wisconsin. These included Kimberly-Clark, Nekoosa Edwards, Neenah Paper and Appleton Paper paper companies; Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst and Miller breweries; and Harnischfeger and Allis-Chalmers equipment manufacturers.
Kieckhefer Elevator manufactured its own traction machines, hydraulic jacks, freight and passenger car frames, platforms and safety devices. It primarily purchased controllers from C.J. Anderson, passenger cabs from Globe Van Doorn, valves from Elevator Equipment Corp., pumps from DeLaval, operators from GAL Manufacturing Corp. and doors from The Peelle Co.
I was hired as an assistant to Henry Kieckhefer, Jr. and put in charge of the parts stockroom. He died from a heart attack within a year, and a new superintendent was hired. I began doing repair field surveys to provide material lists and equipment summaries to the estimating department to prepare job estimates.
Circa 1969, the company was sold by the Kieckhefer family to C. Richard Conant, a Milwaukee attorney, who took over its operation under the Kieckhefer Elevator name. Manufacturing of complete elevator installations was discontinued. An agreement was reached with U.S. Elevator Co. in California to sell that company’s complete elevators under the Kieckhefer Elevator name.
In 1974, the company was moved to 1829 South 68th Street. Only service and repairs were handled out of the shop. I continued performing repair surveys for Kieckhefer Elevator until 1976, when it was sold to Northwestern Elevator Co., a distributor of Dover Elevator Co. equipment. All installation, service and repair under the Kieckhefer Elevator name ceased at this time, though a telephone listing was kept active for a while, so anyone inquiring about the company could call for information.
I stayed with Northwestern Elevator and performed major repair and modernization surveys until the company was sold to Otis in September 1998. My long and truly enjoyable elevator-industry career ended on December 31, 2002, when I retired from Otis.
Get more of Elevator World. Sign up for our free e-newsletter.