As elevators gave people a safe lift to the top, buildings began to grow taller, and the shape of city skylines changed forever. Elevators were not used to lift people because of the risk of the rope snapping. American inventor Elisha Graves Otis solved the problem in 1853 with his safety hoist. If the cable broke, the car still didn’t fall. the first passenger elevator, drive by steam power, was installed in New York department store in 1857. It climbed five stories in one minute.