Saturday, April 18, 2009

Grain elevator/ethanol plant in Peoria, Illinois

In a prior posting, I mentioned the existence of a large grain elevator/ethanol refinery in Peoria, Illinois. It has been owned and operated by Archer-Daniels Midland since 1980. Had I had the time to do so, I would have directed people's attention to it during the Inland Visual Studies Symposium, at which I gave a brief talk on 16 April 2009. The photograph above was taken by someone who calls himself "Astro Punk" and posts his/her photos to Flickr, which is where I found this one.

Let's begin in the middle, with the barge, which we might imagine to be full of corn in bulk. Upon the shore, perpendicular and right next to the barge, there appears to be a marine tower, that is to say, a tower that contains an elevating leg. Such a leg -- unenclosed in a tower or container of any kind -- certainly stands right behind it. Perhaps they form part of a single grain-unloading system.

To the left (our right) stand four sets of grain tanks that are made out of steel, climb to different heights, and no doubt store different amounts of grain. Perhaps they were built over the course of several years, circa 1900-1915.

Behind and, indeed, rising up between these groups of steel tanks, there is a very tall, unenclosed elevating leg. Right next to this leg, there is the top of a tall workhouse made out of reinforced concrete and the top of a smokestack, which suggests the location of the complex's boiler/engine room. Note well that, beneath and on the other side of this workhouse, there is a silo-building made out of reinforced concrete (not captured by this photo). Judging by its size, this silo-building can probably store as many as one million bushels of grain. It might have been built around 1925.

There is some kind of horizontal gantry or conveyor-belt that -- moving from right to left, across the photo -- connects either the workhouse or the silo-building to another building. From the looks of it, this building could be another, older grain elevator, probably built out of brick and iron, and now used for auxiliary storage. Note that this "second elevator" has its own smokestack and thus its own boiler/engine room. It might have been built anywhere between 1885 and 1915.

Let's return to the barge at the center of the photo: to its right (our left), there is a building with four vertical pipes or tubes on the side that faces the river. Dust collection units? To the right (our left) of this building, there appears to be an old marine tower. Perhaps it unloaded grain from ships and then sent it back to what I have imagined to be the older of the grain storage warehouses on the premises. In any case, behind this structure there can be seen the tops of the steel tanks that are part of the ethanol refinery, which is better seen from the other side of the complex, that is to say, from the side that borders the railroad tracks. The refinery was probably built between 1965 and 1980.

As for the building(s) that stand(s) on the left side of this photo, I am uncertain. An old flourmill? Something built at the same time as the old grain elevator? Yet another grain elevator?

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