Santa Justa Elevator, Lisbon, Portugal
One of the city’s best-loved landmarks and also known as the “Elevator of Carmo,” this extraordinary structure was built at the turn of the century by the Portugal-born French architect Raoul de Mesnier du Ponsard (an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, explaining the structure’s similarities to Paris’ Eiffel Tower), to connect downtown to Bairro Alto (the lowest and highest points of the city).
Originally powered by steam, it is 45 meters (147ft) high, and remains an interesting example of post-Eiffel iron architecture. The top of the Neo-Gothic tower, reached via a spiral staircase, had a cafe now removed with splendid views of the city, including over Rossio Square, the castle of St Jorge and the river.
The 7 hills of Lisbon have always presented a problem for accessibility, especially in a time when people were required to move on foot or being pulled by horse (or other animal). In 1874, in order to facilitate the movement between the main Baixa and the Carmo Square, the civil and military engineer Roberto Armenio presented a project to the Lisbon municipal council. A similar project was suggested in 1876, that included raillines that would be pulled by animals, with an inclined plane. Until 1785, this system continued to function in the zone around Carmo.
On 1 June 1882, the council licensed Raul Mesnier to construct and explore alternative plans for an inclined transport, moved by mechanical means, following a petition a month before by founder and representative of the Companhia dos Ascensores Mecanicos de Lisboa.
The Santa Justa Lift was designed by Raul Mesnier du Ponsard, an engineer born in Porto to French parents. In 1896, Raul Mesnier petitoned for the concession of this project, in order to establish the Escadinhas de Santa Justa, a request that was contested by Henry Lusseau. At the same time, the Servicos de Obras da Camara (Municipal Public Services) supported Mesnier’s petition, and the concession to authorize the construction and exploration of the Raul Mesnier du Ponsard Elevator was approved. Yet, it would take two years to receive a provisionary license to construct the structure. In 1899, the Empresa do Elevador do Carmo (Company of the Elevator of Carmo) was founded (constituted by principal partners Raul Mesnier du Ponsard, medical surgeon Joao Silvestre de Almeida and the Marquess of Praia e Monforte, Antonio Borges de Medeiros Dias da Camara e Sousa) in order to secure the permanent concession of the elevator project for a period of 99 years.
In 1900, the formal contract was signed between the Municipal Council of Lisbon and the Empresa do Elevador do Carmo (extinct in 1939), on which the working group was obligated to present a project for an elevator in a period of six months; planning on the construction had already begun with the Lisbon branch of the metal constructors Cardoso D’Argent & Cia. (founded in 1897) in Junqueira The founder, Manuel Cardoso, had already been placed in charge of the offices of firm Empresa Industrial Portuguesa and responsible for the workers in the Elevador de Santa Justa project. By the middle of the year, the land that would be the main site was already in movement, establishing the footings and equipment house (2 June of the same year).
On 31 August 1901, King Carlos inaugurates the metal bridge and awning, in a ceremony that included members of the royal family, the members of the Elevator company, Raul Mesnier du Ponsard, and various members of the high nobility and journalists. Yet, its operation would wait some time: the operating car, was only inaugurated in 1902, in the presence of the managing director of the concessionary company, Dr. Silvestre de Almeida, accompanied by journalists and other invited guests, in a ceremony presided by the Secretary-General of the Civil Government.
The operating concession was given to the company Lisbon Electric Tramway Ltd. in 1905. Originally powered by steam, it was converted to electrical operation in 1907, and the respective concessionary company would buy the Elevator in 1913, from the Empresa do Elevador do Carmo.
Canon 5D Mkii. Canon 17-40mm F4L USM