Silvercrest Gets New Life, Again

Upon its opening, Silvercrest Sanatorium was responsible for serving 32 counties with its 150 beds.

A new elevator and the modernization of two others show that the second generation at Louisville’s Executive Elevator can get the job done, too.

In late winter 2013, Executive Elevator Co. commenced work on the Silvercrest project in New Albany, Indiana. The project consisted of the installation of a three-stop hydraulic passenger elevator and the modernization of two seven-stop traction elevators. Tim and Todd Irvin, who had been working on the existing elevators since the mid 1990s, had the opportunity to perform the work at the site, where their father had adjusted and maintained the traction elevators since the mid 1970s.

The building was being renovated after lying vacant for several years. Opened as “Silvercrest Sanatorium” in August 1940, the busy facility initially used its 147,300 sq. ft. to treat tuberculosis patients and was praised for its individual patient rooms (instead of wards). An outpatient clinic, several laboratories, surgery rooms, a kitchen, laundry facilities, a dental office, a recreational gym and a heated swimming pool rounded out the amenities. While a residence for the superintendent and several guesthouses were also located on the premises, five low-rise buildings and two additional residences were added to the compound in December 1952, bringing total construction costs to US$1,275,000. Designed by Hawkins and Walker of New Albany, the new structures were designed in a style similar to a motel.[1]

Since being closed in 1974 due to more-effective treatment of tuberculosis,[1] the five-story, Art Moderne-styled edifice was used as a children’s development center until 2006, when its demolition was proposed.[2] Renovations by new owner Matt Chalfant, however, have transformed the site into an independent-/assisted-living facility and nursing home called “The Villages at Historic Silvercrest.”

Executive Elevator, based in Louisville, Kentucky, worked on the traction elevators for the second time in two generations. The first phase consisted of the installation of a hydraulic twin-post, holeless unit supplied by Elevator Equipment Corp., with front and rear doors featuring GAL door equipment and an Elevator Controls controller. The traction elevators were unique in that this served as their third modernization. They had previously been modernized by A & B Elevator Co., also of Louisville, in the mid 1970s, from Westinghouse equipment to Virginia Controls Controllers using a DC Ward-Leonard open-loop control system with GAL MOD door operators and related GAL hall- and car-door equipment. Roger Irvin performed their adjustment during his time with A& B Elevator and took over maintaining them.

In the mid 1990s, after Roger Irvin founded Irvin Elevator Group in Louisville, the company upgraded the car and hall fixtures, and replaced the mechanical safety edges with electronic door curtains on both the traction elevators. Son Tim Irvin supervised the completion of the project while at Irvin Elevator.

Due to the elevators having been out of service for several years, it was intended that the existing controllers, hoist motors, generators and governor be removed by crane all at once. The new equipment was to be hoisted to the machine room at the same time so work could be started on it. However, time constraints, lead times and schedule dictated the Virginia Controls controllers be dusted off, turned back on and the units run, while work in the shaft commenced and the new controllers were being manufactured.

The younger Irvins were proud to work on Silvercrest once again, despite the many challenges a long-abandoned building often presents. One of many hurdles involved was overcoming the removal of the three-phase feeder wires in the machine room that had been stolen. With their job complete, the venerable landmark is ready to house patients for many more years.

[1] “Silvercrest: An Architectural Treasure in the Hills of New Albany,” New Albany Historic Preservation Commission, March 24, 2009.
[2] “Indiana Historic Preservation Review Board Minutes,” January 24, 2007: initial application (item 3) to demolish Silvercrest by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Elevator World Senior Associate Editor

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