Hotel News | People of the Rialto | Mr Peter Johns

“The Rise of Melbourne’s First Hydraulic Lift”

Mr Peter Johns – “The Rise of Melbourne’s First Hydraulic Lift”

Known as an honourable and respected man, Mr Peter Johns was a man of great professional accolades. Unfortunately, his personal life was very ill-fated, with all 16 children including three sets of twins passing away at very young ages. Despite this hardship, his professional career flourished and in 1892 Peter supported the development of Melbourne’s first lifts.

P Johns & Co was established in the late 1850’s and commenced constructing hydraulic presses and lifts. Peter worked on installing over 210 hydraulic lifts in key buildings across Melbourne, including passenger lifts in Robb’s Building, the Olderfleet building, Melbourne Town Hall and the Rialto.

“The use of hydraulic lifts meant that Melbourne was able to reach architectural heights that were unimaginable in the past.”- State Library of Victoria.

During the construction of the Rialto building, P Johns & Co built and installed two water hydraulic lifts which were linked to the mechanisms controlling the west-wall mounted goods hoists. These lifts were serviced by an attendant who, by pulling on a rope that passed through the lift car via holes in the ceiling and floor, caused the lift to ascend or descend.

Passengers were given padded morocco seats in the lifts, while uniformed conductors deftly pulled the rope to manoeuvre the lift. By pulling the rope, the inrush of water gave pressure to haul the lift up or down.

Despite his passing in the winter of 1899, Peter John will always be remembered as a consistent and diligent businessman who gave rise to Melbourne’s first hydraulic lifts and the rise of Melbourne’s architectural skylines.

Collins Street Architectural Skyline Supported by hydraulic lifts_State Library of Victoria
Collins Street Architectural Skyline Supported by Hydraulic Lifts_State Library of Victoria

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