From hand-operated dumbwaiters to marvelous paternoster lifts, century-old elevators on the whole seldom fail to be fascinating, especially since few such contraptions have survived into the modern era due to safety concerns. In the historic Turkish city of İzmir, the Asansör tower stands tall above the Aegean coastline. Dating back to 1907, it retains much of its retro appearance, though thanks to modern restoration it has run on electricity instead of steam since 1985.
Much like the Santa Justa lift of Lisbon, the Asansör elevator was made out of geographical necessity, as İzmir is a city of ups and downs, steep slopes, and rocky cliffs. It was built by wealthy Jewish businessman Nesim Levi Bayraklı in order to connect two districts of the city, Karataş and Halil Rıfat Paşa, for the general public. Since the area had been used as a quarry for a long time, the upper district was located atop a high cliff, making it difficult to climb from the coastal district below.
Inspired by European lifts that Nesim Levi had seen during a trip, the tower was built with bricks imported from Marseille. The name Asansör, a common Turkish word for “elevator,” is actually a corruption of French ascenseur with the same meaning. It was well received by the public, and until 1942 most of its profits were donated to the Karataş Jewish Hospital. Today, the Asansör tower is one of İzmir’s most essential tourism resources, offering classic elevator rides as well as a spectacular view of the beautiful city from a nice little rooftop cafe.