“You Need to Get Down Here!”

Old postcard touting The Detroit; via Fox 13 News

“You need to get down here! Don’t tear that out!” Those are the words Pete Mortellano of Tampa-St. Petersburg-based G&M Contracting heard over the phone when G&M employees were working to incorporate a restaurant into The Detroit, an 1890s hotel-turned-condominium building, Fox 13 News reports. What the person on the phone was referring to was a fancy antique elevator, with an ornate green cab trimmed in gold, along with all its mechanisms. In addition to the dazzling cab, also entombed in the walls were an electric motor, transfer case, spool, cabling and a hand-wired, hand-numbered switching panel. The system was made by The Warner Elevator Mfg. Co., and was in use when John F. Kennedy campaigned in Tampa-St. Pete in 1959. Fox newscaster Lloyd Sowers said the owners of the new restaurant plan to preserve the elevator, which “even though it hasn’t moved in decades, is now the express elevator to a different age.”

Environmental Sounds


The Tesla lineup (l-r): Models S, X, 3 and Y; photo from Tesla.

Soft and unobtrusive, so-called “elevator music” was originally designed to have a calming, soothing effect on people who were anxious about riding in elevators (especially those riding for the first time). For a time, the uncomplicated melodies and orchestral arrangements were fairly ubiquitous, emanating not only from elevator cars, but also waiting rooms, shopping malls and even car radios. At some point, though, the simple – some would say bland – tunes began to fall from favor, with many people becoming openly hostile toward the unassuming genre. As the hostility grew, the number of places you could hear the music became less and less, until even few elevators continued to serve up their signature sounds.

Not everyone hates elevator music, however, and a recently announced plan by a tech billionaire – none other than Elon Musk – could mark a comeback of sorts for the musical style. According to USA Today, the entrepreneur plans to have the electric cars from his company Tesla play elevator music through their external speakers, sharing the sound with pedestrians and other motorists. Musk announced the new offering in an August 20 tweet. No timeline was given as to when the feature would be available, but Tesla frequently sends upgrades via over-the-air updates (similar to smartphones), so it could happen anytime.

Mythical Luxury

The Waldorf-Astoria
A model interior of one of the new residences

Thanks to its outsized footprint, grand design and high profile, the Waldorf-Astoria, a super-opulent lodging/residence in the heart of Manhattan, has always carried a certain mythical quality. Sitting dominantly on NYC’s Park Avenue — a thoroughfare synonymous with high society — the Waldorf-Astoria has truly been a place to “see and be seen.” As a lodging of choice for every sitting U.S. president since Herbert Hoover (with the exception of current Chief Executive Donald Trump), this Art Deco gem is steeped in history. The building closed in 2017 for a US$1-billion renovation, but when it reopens it will offer guest rooms as well as residences for sale (studios starting at US$1.7 million). In a recent post by the Financial Times, architecture critic Edwin Heathcote looks back on the storied landmark, sharing tales such as one about a president who was secretly brought into the building — car and all — by an elevator connecting the hotel with a rail track below. If you have the money to make the Waldorf-Astoria part of your personal history, you won’t have too much longer to wait — the renovation is scheduled to be complete in 2021.