Saturday, April 25, 2009

Grain bins made of reinforced concrete, 1899-1908

On pages 220-235 of American Colossus, I discuss the grain elevators that had bins and mainhouses made out of reinforced concrete. Underneath this picture of the first grain bin, and the first cylindrically shaped grain bin, to be made out of reinforced concrete in North America (Peavey's Folly, designed by Charles Haglin and built outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1899), I offer a list of reinforced-concrete grain elevators built between that historic year and 1908.

-- the Peavey, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1899;
-- unnamed elevator, Birkenhead, England, 1899;
-- the Peavey, Duluth, Minnesota, 1900 (rebuilt twice between 1900 and 1904);
-- the George T. Evans Milling Company, Indianopolis, Indiana, 1900-1901;
-- unnamed elevator, Dunston-on-Tyne, England, 1901;
-- unnamed elevator built by Haglin, Fort William, Ontario, 1901;
-- unnamed elevator built by Hennibrique, Genoa, Italy, 1901;
-- unnamed elevator built by Haglin, Duluth, Minnesota, 1902;
-- the Concrete Elevator, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1902;
-- the Canadian Railroad, Port Arthur, Ontario, 1903;
-- the Missouri Pacific Railroad, Kansas City, Missouri, 1904;
-- the Canadian Pacific Railway, Port Arthur, Ontario, 1904;
-- unnamed elevator, Victoria Docks, England, 1904;
-- unnamed elevator, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, 1905;
-- the Sante Fe, Chicago, Illinois, 1906;
-- the Washburn-Crosby, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1906;
-- the American, Buffalo, New York, 1906;
-- unnamed elevators built by Haglin in North Dakota and Minnesota, 1907;
-- the Ralston Purina, Buffalo, New York, 1907;
-- Riverside Malting, Black Rock, New York, 1907;
-- J. H. Tromanhauser, Goderich, Ontario, 1907;
-- the Mt Clare Elevator (Baltimore & Ohio Railroad), Baltimore, Maryland, 1908;
-- the Pennsylvania Railroad, Baltimore, Maryland, 1908.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Great Northern Elevator(s)

On pages 204-209 of American Colossus, I discuss the two steel-binned grain elevators that the Great Northern Railway built in Buffalo, New York, and West Superior, Wisconsin, between 1897 and 1901. Poor Reyner Banham, author of A Concrete Atlantis (MIT Press, 1986), believes that the Great Northern Railway built three such elevators:

all were designed by Max Toltz, the bridge builder and presiding engineering genius of the Golden Age of the Great Northern Railway, which served Minnesota and the western Great Lakes area. One of them was in Duluth, Minnesota; one in West Superior, Wisconsin; and the third was at the other end of the lake-shipping trade, at Buffalo, New York. All were enormous, with capacities of better than two million bushels, and were housed in brick shells of handsome architectural aspect.

But there were only two of these elevators (one in West Superior and one in Buffalo), and Banham himself provides the proof, in the form of a quotation from Engineering News for August 1, 1901:

Perhaps one of the best, and certainly one of the latest examples of elevator construction which deserve mention, is the 3,00,000 bushel terminal elevator put in operation at West Superior, Wis., in February of this year. This elevator was built by the Great Northern Railway and is designed to eclipse in every way the mammoth steel elevator built by the same company at Buffalo, New York, in 1897-98.

Banham's mistake no doubt derived from thinking that Duluth and West Superior are two different places, when in fact they are one (twin port-cities on the St. Louis Bay).

Of course the Great Northern Railway built a great many grain elevators prior to and long after 1896. (In 1958, the railway still serviced more than 900 "country" elevators, that is, small houses that collect grain and then ship it out by rail to much larger elevators further down the "grain stream.") But by building and operating "terminal" grain elevators in key port-cities on the Great Lakes, the Great Northern Railway could dominate two major flows of grain in bulk: not only the one that came from Western Minnesota, the Dakotas and Montana to flour millers in Minneapolis/St. Paul, but also the flow that came to Duluth/West Superior and then traveled by lake vessels to Buffalo, New York, where it was transshipped to either railcars or barges for (semi-final) transportation to New York City.

The Great Northern Elevator in Buffalo was built two or three years before the Great Northern "S" in Duluth/West Superior (pictured above). Furthermore, the elevator in Buffalo has received a great deal of attention since it was closed down in 1981 (precisely because of plans to demolish it), while the Great Northern "S" has received little or no attention (perhaps because it remains in use). And yet, Duluth/West Superior (not Buffalo) is the place to begin this story.

It was in the St. Louis Bay, around 1895 or 1896, that the Great Northern Railway first started building and operating terminal elevators: the Great Northern "A" and the Great Northern "X" (see picture above), both of which were capable of storing 1.5 million bushels of grain in their respective bins, which were made of wood and rectangularly shaped.

The Great Northern Elevator in Buffalo (see picture above) was a revolutionary elevator for a number of reasons:

1) it was equipped with three electrically powered automotive ("loose") marine towers. Previous elevators had both fewer towers and towers powered by coal-burning steam-engines, not electricity off the grid;

2) its grain bins were made of steel, cylindrically shaped and capable of storing 2.5 million bushels of grain. Previous elevators (except for those designed and built by George H. Johnson) utilized rectangular bins made out of wood, not steel. Bins made out of steel -- especially in storage warehouses that were four times larger than those built by Johnson in the 1850s and 1860s -- were too heavy to support without recourse to a system of arches and columns, which took up space that would normally be occupied by grain-handling machines (hoppers, spouts and horizontal conveyor-belts);

3) its steel frame was so strong and well-designed that it supported the entire structure (the headhouse as well as the grain bins, which of course included both interstitial and main bins), which meant that the brick walls that surrounded the building could be "curtain" walls, that is, "decorative" walls that do not bear any loads.

But the Buffalo Great Northern was also a grain elevator with a couple of serious problems (remember: it was an experiment, not the continuation of a well-established tradition).

1) its "loose" marine towers were top heavy, and one or several of them were toppled during a storm in 1922; they had to be replaced with two brand-new towers;

2) despite its fantastic steel chassis, raised high above the ground, the elevator still required a basement in which to place its "boots" (grain pits), from which grain was scooped up by eight internal lofting "legs" that raised it to the top of the structure. In this case, the boots had to be placed below water level, which meant that they became flooded during storms;

3) it stopped being used as a transshipping elevator (transferring grain from lake-to-rail or rail-to-lake) in the 1920s, when a large flourmill was built next to it. Transformed into a receiving elevator for this flour mill, the Great Northern soon became dependent upon it. In 1981, when its then-owner, Pillsbury, decided to close the elevator because it no longer needed such a large amount of storage space, the Great Northern could not be used as anything else. Furthermore, once it was closed down and allowed to deteriorate, it could no longer be re-opened as a grain storage warehouse.

As for the Great Northern "S," which was "designed to eclipse in every way the mammoth steel elevator built by the same company at Buffalo, New York, in 1897-98." Did it in fact eclipse the elevator in Buffalo? In hindsight, the Great Northern "S" wasn't nearly as experimental as its predecessor.

1. Because it was designed to collect grain from railcars and transship it to lake vessels, the Great Northern "S" no marine towers at all. All it needed was a conventional system of spouts that could conduct grain down into the holds of such vessels.

2. Its grain bins (though made of steel) were shaped like grain bins that were made out of wood: rectangularly, not cylindrically. This meant that the "modern" problem of interstitial space wasn't even posed. After the widespread acceptance of reinforced concrete in the 1910s and 1920s, grain bins (no matter what the material used to construct them) have been built in cylindrical shapes.

3. Its walls were built in the conventional fashion: they were load-bearing walls, made of iron and steel, resting upon a solid foundation of masonry.

4. Because there was no basement into which to burrow or, rather, a strong desire not to have any basement become flooded, the elevator's nine lofting legs had to rise that much higher above ground level. This is why they "stick out" above the roof of the mainhouse itself. The result, at least to my eyes, is not "handsome," but strikingly ugly.

What made the Great Northern "S" a better elevator than the Great Northern Elevator in Buffalo is that the former encountered so few problems. Indeed, the Great Northern "S" was so well-designed and well-built that it could remain viable, even after 1909, when two large grain elevators made out of reinforced concrete were constructed right next to it (see below).

It should not go without mention that the Great Northern Railway erected grain elevators in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which was where the company's headquarters were located. Below is a picture of one such elevator, which was built before 1899, could store 1.5 million bushels and was apparently made out of wood and wrapped in corrugated iron.

Note well, at ground-level, the two open doors, through which railcars could be driven; and, right next to those doors, the two vertically arrayed, rectangularly shaped boxes in which the elevator's lofting legs were installed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

John S. Metcalf, continued

In 1903, John S. Metcalf designed and built Elevators "A" and "B" for the Canadian Northern Railroad in Port Arthur, Canada. As this undated photograph shows, sometime after 1903 (the following year, in fact) these two elevators (evidently steel bins surrounded by iron-clad walls) were connected by two sets of cylindrically shaped grain tanks that were constructed out of hollow tile by the Barnett & Record Company.

The Concrete-Central, continued

Here an unknown photographer has done for the "backside" of the Concrete-Central Elevator in Buffalo, New York (1915-1917) what the Buffalo-based photographer named Hare did for its "front": position herself so that she could capture the entire quarter-mile-long structure in a single frame.

Note well the system of spouts that conducted grain down into the train shed that was erected next to the Concrete-Central. This train shed also contained a series of pits into which railcars could unload their cargoes.

The Society of the Spectacle: How Things Are Remembered

In a prior posting, I mentioned that this image was published by A. T. Andreas (Chicago) in 1884 and that it depicts an event from 1830 (the first shipment of grain in bulk from the Port of Chicago, undertaken by the "Osceola" of Buffalo, New York). Note its insistence that no one was there to witness this historic event, that Chicago's docks were virtually empty (spectacular) at the time.

To prove the obvious, i.e., that these docks were in fact teeming with workers, supervisors, grain merchants, farmers, et al, and would remain so until the 1850s, I show you following.

Entitled "The first grain elevator in Chicago, 1838," it was -- in the words of the text at the bottom of the image -- "one of the sixteen historical paintings by Lawrence C. Earle in the Banking Room of the Central Trust Company of Illinois, 15 Monroe St, Chicago." It was painted in 1902. In the fact-challenged words of the caption, which was provided by

In 1839, the firm of Newberry and Dole began shipping wheat from Chicago's first grain elevator, which was located at the north end of the Rush Street bridge. The wheat was brought from farmers' wagons, and hoisted to an upper story by old-style pulley blocks and rope, by hand power.

It is more likely that this elevator was active at the start of the 1830s, and that it was powered by a team of horses, not by human hands. Note well: in both pictures, the elevator dispatches out-going grain through a trough that is lowered into or near the hull of the ship that will be transporting it. This trough proves that grain in bulk was being handled by this pioneering elevator, not grain in sacks.

Steel-binned grain elevators 1897 to 1906

On pages 204-219 of American Colossus, I discuss some of the grain elevators that were built with steel bins between 1897 and 1906. Here, I present a near-complete chronological listing of them. Note: some of the following elevators were built with rectangularly shaped bins, not cylindrically shaped ones, so as to dispense with the problem of using the "interstitial" spaces between them.

The Great Northern, Buffalo, New York, 1897
The Electric, Buffalo, New York, 1897
The Raymond, Black Rock, New York, 1897-1898
Elevator D, Fort William, Canada, 1898
Name unknown, Louisville, Kentucky, 1898
The Great Northern, Superior, Wisconsin, 1900
The Dakota, Buffalo, New York, 1901
The Pioneer, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1901
The Great Eastern, Buffalo, New York, 1901
The Electric Steel, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1901-1903
The Grand Trunk, Portland, Maine, 1902
The Iron Elevator, Buffalo, New York, 1902
Windmill Point, Montreal, Quebec, 1903
Elevators "A" and "B," Port Arthur, Ontario, 1903
The South Pacific, Galveston, Texas, 1903
The West Shore, Weehawken, New Jersey, 1904
The Stuyvesant, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1904
The Monarch, Buffalo, New York, 1905
Elevator #1, Montreal, Quebec, 1905
Elevator B, Montreal, Quebec, 1906

pre-1907 (mentioned in Milo S. Ketchum, The Design of Walls, Bins and Grain Elevators [New York: Engineering News, 1907])

Manhattan Malting, Manhattan, Montana
The Lake Shore, Buffalo, New York
C.H. & D, Elevator B, Toledo, Ohio
Winona Malting, Winona, Montana
The Independent Elevator, Omaha, Nebraska

Grain elevators in Montreal: a summary

Between 1900 and 1930, a total of five grain elevators were built in Montreal, Quebec, which was a location at which grain elevators had been built since 1859.

1. The Windmill Point Elevator, designed and built in 1903 by John S. Metcalf;

2. Elevator #1, designed and built in 1905 by Harry Wait and the Steel Storage Elevator Construction Company;

3. Elevator "B," designed and built in 1906 by John S. Metcalf;

4. Elevator #2, designed and built in 1912 by John S. Metcalf;

5. Elevator #5 (aka Silo #5), which is in the foreground of the picture above. Like Elevator #2, Elevator #5 was built out of reinforced concrete and utilized cylindrical grain bins. To the left of Elevator #5, we can see the tops of Elevator B's cupola-towers. We can also see that neither Elevator #5 nor Elevator "B" are equipped with marine towers, and that all of the unloading and loading of grain is done by the huge steel marine towers and horizontal gantries that stand between these elevators and the St. Lawrence River.

John S. Metcalf, continued

Elevator "B" (short for "Bickerdike") was designed and constructed in Montreal, Quebec, by John S. Metcalf between 1903 and 1906. Like Metcalf's Windmill Point Elevator, Elevator "B" was not so much as grain-storage warehouse (it too could only store one million bushels of grain), but a versatile transshipping elevator, capable of transferring large amounts of grain to ocean-going vessels from both railcars and lakers. Note (once again) the incredible system of horizontal conveyors that bring grain from the warehouse to ocean tankers. Note as well the five cupola-towers atop the mainhouse, which indicate the presence of (at least) five internal lofting legs.

In 1912, after Elevator B's horizontal-conveyor system had been removed, John S. Metcalf designed and built Elevator #2 right next to it. (It can be seen in the above picture to our left of Elevator "B.") Constructed out of reinforced concrete, capable of storing 2.5 million bushels of grain in its cylindrical tanks, and equipped with two marine towers (not visible in this picture), Elevator #2 was truly a modern facility.

John S. Metcalf, continued

The Grand Trunk Elevator (aka the Montreal Warehousing Company), Windmill Point, Montreal, designed and constructed by John S. Metcalf, between 1900 and 1903. Made out of steel and, no doubt, utilizing rectangularly shaped bins, this elevator could store one million bushels of grain. Small by comparison with other elevators made out of steel during the same period, the Windmill Point Elevator was clearly intended, not to store large amounts of grain in bulk (two or three million bushels), but to unload and transfer large amounts of grain from one form of vehicle to another.

Note in this regard 1) the stationary marine tower, designed to unload grain-bearing ships; 2) the line of rail cars extending into and no doubt being unloaded by the mainhouse; and 3), most important of all, the incredible system of horizontal conveyors that bring grain from the base of the marine tower -- as well as from the "backside" of the building, it seems -- to an area (beyond the edge of the picture) in which ocean-going vessels have room to dock and be loaded.

John S. Metcalf, continued

Pictured here are at least three generations of grain elevators in Goderich, Ontario. I say "three" because this facility possesses three marine towers (all of them stationary), which are easily identifiable by the vertical "slats" out of which their respective elevating legs can be lowered. Moving from right to left, we see:

1) a marine tower that is integrated into the mid-section of a brick or iron-clad warehouse (a common design-feature in the 1870s and '80s);

2) a tower that stands at the far-end of another brick or iron-clad warehouse, over which a horizontal gallery or "cupola" has been built (common in the '80s and '90s); and

3) a tower that is integrated into an all-steel mainhouse (common in the 1900s).

Note that, at the far left of the picture, we see a grain-storage warehouse that is made out of reinforced concrete (note the cylinders, the only ones utilized at this facility). It is my educated guess that this facility was constructed in four stages between 1875 and 1915, and that the 500,000-bushel elevator built by John S. Metcalf in 1907, using steel to construct the rectangularly shaped grain tanks, is #3 (above).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

John S. Metcalf, continued

Here are two pictures of the two-million-bushel grain elevator that John S. Metcalf designed and constructed in Victoria Harbour (now called Port McNicoll) for the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1910: first we see the structure as it was in 1940; then we see it in the mid-1990s, after the marine towers (all three of which were mobile or "loose"), the gallery and the powerhouse were demolished. There were additions to the elevator's storage capacity in 1912 and 1927, which brought its total up to 6.5 million bushels. Closed down in 1990 and partially demolished in the mid-1990s, the elevator is now in the final stages of demolition.

(Thanks to Scott Garrett for his invaluable assistance in fact-checking this entry.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

John S. Metcalf

On pages 223-224, I mention John S. Metcalf, a specialist in the design and construction of grain elevators.

Born in Sherbrook, Quebec, in 1847, Metcalf moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1870. While in Indianapolis, he not only designed and built Elevator "A," he also served as this elevator's superintendent until 1881. In 1882, he moved to Chicago, where he partnered with T.K. Webster and James MacDonald. By 1894, he was well-enough known to start his own company, of which there were be offices in Chicago, Illinois, Montreal, Quebec, and Sydney, Australia. He died in 1912.

To Mr. Metcalf may be credited the following grain elevators, some of which were built out of steel (most were built with steel-reinforced concrete):

-- name unknown, Manchester Ship Canal, England, built 1898 (bins made out of wood, not steel, brick, tile or concrete; apparently the first American-style grain elevator to be built on dry land in England; there had been American-style floaters in use there as early as the 1880s);

-- the Grand Trunk (aka Montreal Warehousing Company), Windmill Point, Montreal, built 1900-1903 out of steel;

-- the George T. Evans, Indianapolis, Indiana, built 1901 (made of reinforced concrete, this was a grain storage warehouse, not a functioning elevator);

-- the Canadian Northern Pacific, Port Arthur, Ontario, built 1903;

-- the Southern Pacific, Galveston, Texas; built 1903 out of steel;

-- the Grand Trunk (aka Elevator "B"), Montreal, Quebec, built 1903-1906 out of steel;

-- the Missouri Pacific, Kansas City, Missouri, built 1904 out of reinforced concrete;

-- the Sante Fe, Chicago, Illinois, built 1906 out of reinforced concrete;

-- unnamed elevator, Goderich, Ontario, built 1907 out of steel;

-- the Grand Trunk, Tiffin, Ontario, built 1909 out of reinforced concrete;

-- the Canadian Pacific, Victoria Harbour, Ontario; built 1910 out of reinforced concrete ;

-- Elevator #2, Montreal, Quebec, completed 1912, reinforced concrete;

-- the Burlington, St. Louis, Missouri, date unknown;

-- the Chicago, Burlington & Quincey, East St. Louis, Missouri; date unknown;

-- the Grand Trunk, Portland, Maine; date unknown;

-- the Chesapeake & Ohio, Newport News, Virginia; date unknown.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Grain elevator in Weehawken, New Jersey

On page 216, I mention that a pioneering grain elevator with steel bins was built by the New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railroad in Weehawken, New Jersey, in 1901. Though the deed was issued in 1901, the elevator itself wasn't built until 1904-1905. Designed by George M. Moulton & Company (Chicago, Illinois), the West Shore Elevator was a steel-framed structure with brick curtain walls. It was nearly 200 feet tall and was capable of storing 2 million bushels of grain in its rectangularly shaped steel bins. It stood until 1968, when it was demolished.

Above: a nice picture of it. Note the marine tower (for unloading ships) and the ten marine spouts (for loading grain into ships) on the side of the structure that is visible to us.

Here's another nice picture, but from a different angle.

George H. Johnson

On pages 192-197 of American Colossus, I discuss three pioneering fireproofed grain elevators designed and built by George H. Johnson:

1) the Washington Avenue Elevator, an elevator with iron bins built in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1859 and 1866. A picture of it appears here.

2) the Brooklyn Iron Elevator, an iron-binned elevator built in Brooklyn, New York around 1865 as a rail-to-ocean transshipping and storage elevator. Demolished in 1902, it was equipped with 60 to 90 cylindrically shaped bins, supported by a system of iron girders and columns, and surrounded by walls made of brick. A photograph of the Brooklyn Iron Elevator appears in Daniel Badger's book, Illustrations of Iron Architecture (New York, 1865-1867);

3) the Plimpton Elevator, a brick-binned elevator built in Buffalo, New York in 1868. Demolished in 1905 to make way for a new railroad station, the Plimpton was equipped with bins that were 80-feet-deep and 15 feet in diameter. In February and March 1869, Johnson obtained patents for this elevator's grain distributor, grain spouts, elevator legs and grain-discharge system. An illustration based on a photograph of it appears above, taken from "Conserving our grain supply," by F.W. Fitzpatrick, The World To-Day, volume XIX, No. 2, August 1910 (page 837).

Johnson was also the inventor of the interstitial bin, that is, the small, cylindrical bin that can be constructed in the interstices between larger cylindrical bins, which he patented on December 9, 1862 for himself and W.S. Sampson (a grain dealer in Chicago). Prior to 1862, these interstitial spaces were filled with grain (but not grain bins). As a result, when these spaces were emptied, they sometimes caused the grain tanks next to them to bend or break open. In Johnson's patent, interstitial bins can be made out of either iron or iron, provided that, in either instance, they are produced in cylindrical shapes.

Born in Manchester, England, in 1830, George H. Johnson moved to New York City in 1852. For the next ten years, he managed the Architectural Iron Works. Thereafter, he traveled to and designed buildings in Chicago (1860), Richmond, Virginia (1865), Baltimore, Maryland (1867), Buffalo, New York (1868-1869), Chicago, again (1871), New York City, again (1874), and Chicago, one last time (1877). He died in 1879. His son, Ernest V. Johnson, continued his father's work with the Barnett & Johnson Company, which eventually became the Barnett & Record Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota.