Thursday, April 30, 2009

John S. Metcalf, continued

On page 224 of American Colossus, I mention the grain elevator that John S. Metcalf designed and built for the Sante Fe Railway in Chicago, Illinois. Completed in 1906, the Sante Fe was one of the first elevators in North America with bins that were built out of reinforced concrete.

Above, we see two photographs of the Sante Fe, both taken by Jet Lowe of the Historic Engineering Record at the same time (circa 1985). In the upper photo, we see the side of the elevator that faced the Chicago River. Note the simplicity of the ironworks: a single marine leg, with barely any covering; three canal spouts; the zig-zagging staircase that climbs the outside of the all-reinforced concrete workhouse; a single spout that sends grain down into a small feed or seed mill next door.

In the lower photo, we see the "other" side of the Sante Fe: the "annex" of cylindrical grain tanks, made out of reinforced concrete, that receives grain from the main house through two horizontal conveyor-belts that appear in the upper right-hand corner. (It is likely that, below ground-level, one or two horizontal conveyor-belts were installed in trenches to carry grain from the annex back to the main house.) The two houses were kept separate from each other so that, in case of fire or explosion, the damage would be limited to one, and would not affect both.

Below is a photograph of the complex as it is today.

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