If you are a tenant at an average multi-story building in Belgrade and you’ve spent decades living there, then chances are you already know your neighbors and furthermore see them as a part of your extended family of sorts.

As it tends to happen, every such “family” has a special place for its older members. Support and respect that you show to the older ladies and gentlemen will surely be repaid to you in kind smiles or an invitation to a conversation over a cup of coffee.

One of such buildings in our capitol city can, however, lay claim to a slightly different veteran. He resides at 3 Visnjiceva street in Dorcol and even though he’s well into his eighties, this kind neighbor will gladly carry you to the second or third floor, and even bring your luggage!

Still, you shouldn’t expect him to return your smile or say a welcoming ‘hello’. Although he is always at your service, this weathered “gentleman” is not very chatty. The residents of that building in Visnjiceva, despite it all, accept him as a part of their building’s structure...which is not so unusual, considering that we are talking about the oldest elevator in Belgrade.

His neighbors state that it enjoys a special, privileged status among all residents who have shared decades of their lives with it. Because of its age, it did have to undergo several renovations, so its appearance today isn’t the same as it once was.

And that ‘once’, back when the elevator took its first residents for a ride, happened far back in 1935. Back then, it had a broad cabin and a luxurious wrought iron door, which let though Jewish traders and their families, who were among the first residents of the building. Today’s residents still nostalgically mourn the loss of the elevator’s original appearance, which had to be altered for safety reasons.

Photo: Pavle Kaplanec

And aside from the oldest elevator in the capitol, the building in this address was among the rare ones which had its own bellboy in the first half of the past century. His main task was to greet and see off visitors, that is to open and closes doors for them. Bellboys at the time existed only in hotels and a small number of luxurious buildings in the center, and it is assumed that this interest disappeared at the start of WWII.

Still, the elevator at 3 Visnjiceva street still reminds its residents of some nicer times past. According to their statements, the elevator malfunctioned several times since the 70’s, which is why the authorities decided that the best solution was to replace the existing cabin with a smaller one, as well as replace the old iron door. Now, the elevator can only carry up to 250kg, meaning that up to 3 people can fit in the cabin.

Sadly, despite the good will of the tenants to keep the original appearance of the elevator, the superiors were deaf to their pleas. This, according to some, took away the old charm and spirit that used to decorate this building and to make things worse, it didn’t even solve the original problem because today the elevator continues to malfunction frequently, and so many tenants nowadays prefer to go up the stairs.

A similar fate is shared by about 335 more elevators around our capitol that are over 50 years old. Sadly the average age of elevators in Belgrade ranges between 30 and 40 years, while the oldest ones are located in the buildings in Obilicev venac, Terazije and the building of the Jewish township. Despite the fate that befell it in its old days, the elevator at 3 Visnjiceva street, remains a record-breaker in its age.