Lee Gray focuses on how technological inventions and the embrace of new materials impact the form and functions of buildings. The introduction of passenger elevators in office buildings in New York from 1870 – a delayed adoption, after more than a decade of use in stores and hotels – is often identified as the origins of the “skyscraper.” Lee Gray, the preeminent scholar of elevator history and author of From Ascending Rooms to Express Elevators: A History of the Passenger Elevator in the 19th Century (2002), discusses the “dialogue of invention and need” that characterized the earliest examples of the design of elevator office buildings in both cities.
Lee Gray is Professor of Architectural History and Senior Associate Dean of the College of Arts + Architecture at UNC Charlotte. An expert on early commercial buildings and elevator history, Gray is the author of From Ascending Rooms to Express Elevators: A History of the Passenger Elevator in the 19th Century (Elevator World Inc., 2002). He has written monthly articles on the history of vertical transportation for Elevator World Magazine since 2003. New York’s Tribune Building was a focus of his dissertation, “The Office Building in New York City, 1850-1880” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell Univ., 1993). He is currently writing about the history of escalators and moving sidewalks.