Roemer Elevator


Christine Hoffmann | Lindenlink Contributor

Every day, the stairwells in Roemer are full of students going to class, some out-of-breath from the trek up three flights of stairs. Many know Roemer as one of the few buildings without an elevator, but history tells a different story. Wooden doors on each level of the 91-year-old building hide an empty elevator shaft that hasn’t been used in decades.

“I may have been one of the last people to ride in the elevator,” said Eric Stuhler, Lindenwood’s legal counsel.

Stuhler was a senior at Lindenwood in 1978. As president of the business club, he regularly used the Roemer elevator to transport books to the third floor where a classroom was being used as a secondhand book store.

The top of the elevator shaft viewed from the attic.

“It was a rickety old elevator,” he said. “I was always afraid it would fall.”

Unlike its modern counterparts, a key was needed to operate the elevator. Turning the key one direction would make the elevator go up while turning it the other direction moved the elevator down.

Not long after 1978 the elevator was taken out of service.

“The building was built in 1920,” said Lindenwood archivist Paul Huffman. “It just became outdated in the 1970’s. To prevent any accidents, they dismantled it completely.”

The concrete shaft is too narrow to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements for a modern elevator, so replacing the elevator is impossible.

The basement and the first floor of the building are handicap accessible, so disabled students are able to visit the financial aid and business offices and accommodations are made so their classes are in buildings with a working elevator.

“Nobody is denied access to a class,” Stuhler said.

The elevator shaft continues to serve a purpose despite the elevator being gone. Ethernet cables have been strung through the shaft to provide internet access to each floor.

“It’s been a good means of bringing technology to an old building,” Stuhler said.

Wooden platforms were installed on each level so that the shaft could also be used as storage space. The windows on the closet doors are a clue to the original usage.

“You’d look in the window to see if the elevator was there,” Stuhler said. “You didn’t want to take that first step if it wasn’t.”

The original mechanisms of the elevator at the top of the shaft.

Remnants of the elevator remain in the attic. The original motor is still at the top of the shaft as well as a few other antique mechanisms.

Despite the elevator having been gone for over 30 years, security receives some peculiar calls.

“We get calls from the security company we run through [Midwest Electronics] saying they receive trouble calls for the elevator in Roemer,” said security officer Charles Davidson.

Davidson said such distress calls occur three to four times a year.

“It could just be a glitch in the system,” he said. “It’s an old building, so the wiring may be messed up.”

Still, with Lindenwood being named one of the most haunted places in St. Charles, others may give credit to the spirits of the past.

Stuhler said he had a similar phone experience in 2006 when he was working in his office late one night.

“Someone ran into my office and asked if I dialed 911,” he said.

The police department had received a 911 call from the building. They traced it to the phone booths in the basement even though the phones had also been taken out years ago, and all that is left is bare wire.

“I said, ‘Okay, I’m getting spooked,’ and I headed home,” said Stuhler.

Whether it is faulty wiring or Lindenwood ghosts, some things are better left a mystery.