The Santa Justa Elevator, Elevador de Santa Justa in Portuguese, is a historic outdoor elevator located in the civil parish of Santa Justa, in the capital city of Lisbon, in Portugal. This early 20th century wrought iron elevator connects the lower streets of the Baixa with the higher level Largo do Carmo, and has been providing an invaluable service to the commuters by eliminating the slog up Carmo Hill. The beautiful ironwork with neo-gothic arches, sumptuous polished wood carriages and brass dials, was such a wondrous piece of art that it was adored by Lisbon's residents ever since its construction. Today, it’s the only remaining vertical lift in the city and a famous tourist attraction.
Lisbon has many steep hills (the city is nicknamed ‘The City of Seven Hills’) that posed significant challenges to its citizens, which were initially overcome by installing inclines pulled by animals. During the industrial age several steam-powered funiculars such as the Elevador da Gloria were built and are still used to this day, now run by electricity. One of the inclines was replaced with a large elevator, the Elevador de Santa Justa.
The elevator was built by the Portuguese engineer Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, who was once a student of the great iron craftsman Gustave Eiffel, whose crowning glory was the magnificent Eiffel Tower. Construction of the elevator began in 1900 and was finished in 1902. The tower of the elevator is 45 meters tall and includes two elevator cabins, decorated in wood, mirrors and windows, and has a capacity of 29 passengers in each. At the top of the elevator there is a viewing platform which provides great views of the city.
The original elevator was powered by a giant steam engine, but it was replaced by an electrical motor in 1907, which still powers the lift today. In 1973, the Elevador de Santa Justa came under public ownership and was amalgamated into the government run Carris Corporation, which also manages the tram network. In 2002, the Elevador de Santa Justa and the three remaining cable railways of Lavra, Glória and Bica, were classified as National Monuments. In 1998, the underground Baixa-Chiado metro station was opened which provided commuters an alternative route via a series of escalators that lead them straight to the Chiado Square. Most tourists however will take a ride on the Santa Justa elevator, at least once, if only for its historic significance.
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