What is this strange contraption that was attached to a radiator?
January 6, 2014 2:52 PM   Subscribe

I've been trying to figure out what this strange, accordion-like contraption is. It was attached to my friend's radiator in his ~1950s-era apartment in Philadelphia. It was only secured with one bolt at 90 degrees to the radiator, but it also originally had a sheet metal housing around it that could be removed. It seems to me like it might be some kind of clothes hanger/dryer, but I have no idea. Does anyone know?
posted by Aanidaani to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Fire escape ladder?
posted by sanka at 3:04 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]

I think that's an old-fashioned clothes drying rack that attaches to the radiator. I can't find a picture of any from that era but it looks right for that.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:09 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I would go with clothes drying rack. Just a guess, but it makes sense. Folds up out of the way when not needed, extends when necessary. Near the radiator, which is the warmest place in the house. Good for drying clothes in bad weather.
posted by Scientist at 3:10 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]

Here's an ebay listing for a clothes drying rack that looks like a modern version of the same kind of thing.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:16 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]

I think sanka has it. The metal looks too far too substantial for a drying rack and there isn't enough structure to it. There are no diagonal supports to hold it open if it were expanded and it would make a very long, low rack with a lot of wasted space.

I think it is a modern version of this:
posted by Brockles at 3:20 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]

I think the flat plate section is meant to be bolted to the wall and the ladder then extended out the window and down for emergency use (just to clarify).
posted by Brockles at 3:21 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]

Seconding fire escape ladder. Does the radiator happen to be below a window? I could see someone using it as an anchorage for the ladder.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:29 PM on January 6

Yep, fire escape ladder.
posted by desuetude at 9:29 PM on January 6

I have to say I don't think your item looks anything like the fire escape ladders being linked to. But it looks too heavy for a clothes rack.

What does it look like opened up??
posted by SLC Mom at 1:08 PM on January 7

It looks far too small to be a ladder. I'm with the clothes drying crowd.
posted by gjc at 2:40 AM on January 8

SLC Mom: "I have to say I don't think your item looks anything like the fire escape ladders being linked to."

gjc: "It looks far too small to be a ladder."

Yeah, you're not crazy. But nevertheless, that's what it is. I had them in a couple of different apartments.

An oft-repeated "fact" in Philly (by which I mean semi-folklore), is that this style of fire ladder was outlawed because so many people were injured or killed using them, that the ladders were more dangerous than the fire.
posted by desuetude at 9:45 AM on January 8

It looks like the mystery is solved. Thanks guys!
posted by Aanidaani at 7:13 AM on January 9

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