Historic downtown elevator still functioning after more than 100 years

LA CROSSE, Wis - It's one of the common ways to travel between floors of a building if you don't want to take the stairs -- the elevator, but one special elevator in La Crosse has proven to stand the test of time, even as the world around it continues to advance.

The elevator in the State Bank Financial building on La Crosse's Main Street makes about of 200 trips a day up and down its seven floors.

At the time it was installed, the elevator was considered state of the art. While that's not exactly how people would describe it anymore, it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Nerby offers a welcome greeting to everyone who wants to take a ride in the piece of history.

"Morning," said Kevin Nerby, State Bank's building and purchasing supervisor as he opened the elevator door for a passenger.


Nerby's worked at State Bank for just nine months, but the elevator he's operating has been there longer than that.

"I never rode this elevator as a kid, but I knew it was here," said Nerby.

"It's been in here for well over a hundred years," said Jeff Garbers, State Bank's assistant vice president in charge of operations.

It's actually one of the few manually operated elevators still around, and it came with the building when State Bank moved in in 1913.

While horses and buggies no longer crowd the streets, some things haven't really changed.

"The elevator itself has not changed, but we've had to replace the motors (and) we've had to replace different parts on the elevator," said Garbers.

The equipment that keeps the elevator running smoothly is still pretty much just as it was when it was back then, but maintaining equipment more than a century old isn't easy.

"These older elevators need a lot more maintenance because everything is old," said Greg Wert, a service representative for the Schumacher Elevator Company.

Service and maintenance checks are done monthly and annually, and if there's a problem, the only way to solve it is the old-fashioned way.

"You need to look at an old print that you can't see anymore, and figure it out," said Wert.

Over the years, people skilled in the antique craft have become scarce, and replacement parts have become more expensive.

But even so, the old-time transportation isn't going anywhere.

"The cost of putting in a new elevator because of the size, it'd have to be custom made and put in there, and of course that would be quite expensive," said Garbers.

Garbers said the elevator is just what the historic building needs.

"It's just a nice building, and it just goes with it," said Garbers. "It's a perfect fit."

Garbers and Nerby said it's still the more popular of the two ways to get around.

"Nobody likes the stairs, I guess," Nerby laughed.

Garbers said they did considered changing the elevator to a modern one when the outside of the building was being remodeled back in 1997. At that time, the estimated cost was well more than $100,000. He said it would probably be even more than that today.

There is another elevator located in the Batavian Building, in downtown La Crosse that's similar to the one in State Bank. While there is an operator in that one, the elevator functions automatically.

Top Videos

Latest News

This Week's Circulars