More Articles Click

Harrison NJ: Otis Elevator Company Innovation and Industrial Progress

Jul 20, 2023
Otis Elevator Logo Harrison NJ

Founded by the legendary inventor Elisha Graves Otis in 1853, the Otis Elevator Company represents a significant chapter in the annals of American industrial history. Otis, a Vermont native, first showcased his groundbreaking invention — a safety elevator — at the 1854 New York World's Fair, forever changing the landscape of vertical transportation. The company was originally founded in Yonkers, New York, but its operations in Harrison, New Jersey, form a critical chapter in the Otis narrative.

Early History and Founding

The Otis Elevator Company was officially established in 1853 by Elisha Graves Otis. Elisha was not the first person to design an elevator, but he was indeed the first to invent a safety device that prevented elevators from falling if the hoisting cable failed. This invention, paramount for the development and acceptance of elevators, led to the establishment of the Otis Elevator Company.

Following Elisha Otis's death in 1861, his sons Charles and Norton took over the reins of the company, incorporating it as Otis Brothers & Co. in 1867. With the post-Civil War building boom, the company grew exponentially, riding the wave of America's rapid urban expansion.

The Otis Elevator Company in Harrison, NJ

The Otis Elevator Company began operations in Harrison, New Jersey, in 1903, shifting its headquarters from Yonkers, New York. The move to Harrison allowed the company to significantly expand its production capacity. It was in this facility that Otis started its manufacturing of escalators in 1899, following the acquisition of the patents from inventor Jesse W. Reno. The Otis Company's escalators forever changed the landscape of multi-story buildings, airports, and subway systems, making vertical transportation more efficient and accessible.

Harrison was an attractive location because of its proximity to major transportation networks including rail, water, and roadways.  In addition, Harrison was close to the City of Newark, NJ (across the Passaic River) and the growing market for elevators and escalators there and in New York City and the metropolitan area. This facility marked the company's shift towards larger manufacturing sites, capable of handling the increasing demand for elevators and escalators.

Sanat Justa Lift

There are Otis elevators throughout the world. One of the oldest is the Santa Justa Lift in Lisbon Portugal which has been in operation since 1901 as part of the city’s transportation system but has also become a tourist attraction so much so that the City of Lisbon erected a viewing walkway so that individuals can see the city after reaching the top of the elevator.

The World War II Era

During World War II, the Otis Elevator Company played a pivotal role in the United States' industrial war effort. Its expansive manufacturing capabilities were repurposed to support the military's needs. Although most renowned for its elevators and escalators, the company had to shift its focus to support the war effort.

From 1941 to 1945, the Harrison factory transitioned to producing essential goods such as aircraft parts, naval shells, and components for radar and sonar equipment. Despite the shift in manufacturing focus, the company remained dedicated to ensuring the safety and performance of its products, whether they were destined for skyscrapers or battleships.

Ceasing Operations in Harrison, NJ

After almost a century of operations, Otis Elevator Company ceased operations at its Harrison plant on December 31, 1980, marking the end of an era. The closure was driven by economic considerations, with the company seeking to streamline its operations and move manufacturing to more modern facilities.

Throughout the years, the Otis Elevator Company left an indelible mark on Harrison, NJ, playing a significant role in the town’s industrial growth and contributing to the world's architectural advancements. Its legacy lives on not only in the thousands of buildings worldwide equipped with its elevators and escalators but also in the spirit of innovation it fostered, continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible in vertical transportation.

Let Us Know Your Thoughts on our Community Discussion Board.  If you have not signed up yet to participate you can Sign Up now