The Northampton Arts Council is an organization whose goal is to support and promote the arts in Northampton. Originally created as a Local Arts Lottery Council, it began its work by administering a grants program in which proceeds from a state lottery are distributed to local artists, arts groups, and public schools.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Screening of "The Gilded Cage" by Stan Sherer


WHAT: Film screening: The Gilded Cage: Northampton’s Last Water-Powered Elevator, a film by Stan Sherer
WHEN: Wednesday, August 22, 7 pm
WHERE: Forbes Library, Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library

Running time: 52 minutes
Color and black & white

In the late 1800s, Northampton's Freemasons borrowed $110,000 to construct the Masonic Block (25 Main Street) on Lower Main Street. This four-story building, which opened in 1898, featured an elevator powered by Northampton city water pressure. Although hydraulic elevators were not unusual at the time, this was no ordinary elevator. The walls and ceiling were made of oak and featured ornately carved panels, with stained glass windows at the top. The stairway wound its way around the open hoistway, which was framed by mesh wire. Until it was decommissioned in 2017, the operator-run elevator was in service Monday–Friday, 9–5 pm.

The elevator operators were an important part of the social fabric of the building from the start. In his new documentary film The Gilded Cage: Northampton’s Last Water Powered-Elevator, Stan Sherer interviewed former operators and the repair service person who maintained it from the mid-1980s until the end. Through these interviews, and interviews with building tenants, we see what this historic elevator, and its operators, meant to the people in the building, and to the City of Northampton.

In the 21st century, we take elevators for granted. Yet they have literally transformed our world. If not for Elisha Otis’s invention of elevator safety brakes in 1852, the cities of the world would not have developed vertically. Before Otis, five stories were the limit; by the early 1900s, buildings were rising 20, 30, 40 stories and more. The 47-story Singer Building in New York City, completed in 1908, was the tallest building in the world at the time. The Gilded Cage brings this lost history to life, showing how the safety brake works, how a hydraulic system pushes an elevator, how the elevator counter-weight works, and much more.


STAN SHERER has published five books of photographs, including Long Life to Your Children! A Portrait of High Albania and Founding Farms. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Albania, a recipient of two Mass Foundation grants, and numerous other grants and awards. He has exhibited his photographs across the United States and in Europe. Exhibits/USA traveled his exhibition On the Land: Three Centuries of American Farmlife throughout the country for ten years. Sherer has worked as a photojournalist and documentary photographer in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, and in Asia. He has a strong interest in local history and is Vice President of the Board of Trustees of Historic Northampton. His previous documentary film The Brush Shop, a depiction of the now defunct local manufacturer Pro Brush, was shown in the 2017 Northampton Film Festival. Stan Sherer holds a B.A. from the City University of New York and an M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts.

This event is free and open to the public.

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