New York is a rather unique city in that it offers so much to visitors and residents alike. At least a dozen features about the city that are famous around the world probably could come to your mind instantly — such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, or the Brooklyn Bridge, to name only a few…
…but did you know that inside of the largest department store in the world are 20 escalators which are constructed with two types of wood — all of which are still in operation?
First, these escalators are numbered for a specific reason. The first number of the two digit number indicates the lower of the two floors; while the second number identifies which escalator line on which you are currently riding. The escalators which are featured in the photograph above are numbered 64 and 65, which are escalator lines four and five — which means that the left escalator descends from the seventh floor to the sixth floor; and the right escalator ascends from the sixth floor to the seventh floor.
These 40 Type L escalators — which were constructed with two types of solid wood: oak and ash — were built between 1920 and 1930 by the Otis Elevator Company, which pioneered the machinery and still currently manufactures them, as Escalator was once a trademark of the company. The oldest escalators — which are now greater than 100 years old — are equipped with the original wooden sides and wooden treads.
Escalator 55 descends from the sixth floor to the fifth floor.
Prodigious cleats on the step treads were milled from single pieces of ash — which is a hardwood that is often used for flooring — that distinguishes the escalators, which remain unmodified to this day. They are one-half-inch wide. The treads — cleats and all — were milled.
Many of the mechanical parts have been updated, as most of the drive motors have been replaced. Modern safety measures have been added — especially after a boy who was four years old and trying to retrieve a bottle of water which he dropped lost his right pinkie finger under a comb plate of one of the escalators.
This video not only shows what riding one of these escalators is like; but also highlights the sounds which emanate from it.
Final Boarding Call
Somehow the scuffing of the otherwise rich wood seems to accentuate the historic nature of these rare escalators, of which Macy’s is one of only a few operators left in the world.
No admission fee is charged to use the wooden escalators, which are located on the upper floors of this massive department store — although you might be inclined to purchase something.
Monday through Thursday — 10:00 in the morning through 9:00 in the evening
Friday through Saturday — 10:00 in the morning through 10:00 in the evening
Sunday — 11:00 in the morning through 9:00 in the evening