June 6, 2013
In October of 1955, an inspection party of 16 went on a tour of the new University Hospital on the University of Oregon Medical School campus on top of Marquam Hill. The party consisted of Dean David W. E. Baird, 13 members of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education and other medical school officials. The opening was just four months away when the group took an unsuspected and hair-raising ride.
Baird led the group onto the 10th floor elevator, the door closed and suddenly the elevator car plunged 10 stories. Other than shaken nerves, no harm was done. A safety plunger at the bottom of the shaft took the load and the elevator came to a softer than a cloud landing.
A. J. Clemmons, building superintendent, admitted that it was a mistake to allow the party onto the elevator. For one, he didn't know that the inspection was going to cover so many floors, and secondly, the unit had not been tested. To justify his decision, he said that he had asked permission from the installation company if the elevator could be used just once on this very special occasion.
But for those of you who take the Hospital elevators everyday or even for those who take an occasional ride, not to worry. Clemmons assured the public that the drop was not so swift and that brakes were "checking it somewhat." We can happily report that to our knowledge, in 58 years since its virgin voyage, this thrill ride has never tested the brakes and plunger in this fashion again.
Written by Karen Lea Anderson Peterson, Archivist-Assistant Professor, OHSU Historical Collections & Archives