Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Marine "A"

The Marine "A" (designed by AE Baxter Engineering and constructed by the James Stewart Company in 1925) is one of the four grain elevators that were recently purchased by a company that hoped to utilize them in the construction of an ethanol plant. Those plans have fallen through, and the entire area remains inactive, even those parts of it that had been functioning as recently as 2000.

As I mention on page 405 of American Colossus, when Orrin and I were last there, in 1992, "on one of the walls in the basement of the Marine 'A,' there [is] a very detailed, almost gentle multi-colored chalk portrait of the Standard Elevator, which sits across from the Marine 'A' on the Buffalo River. Accurate but not fussy about the details, this careful portrait was made by someone who either had a photograph to work from, or knew the Standard by heart. Such a portraIit could only have been made with adequate lighting, which hasn't existed in the basement of the Marine 'A' since 1965, when the elevator was closed down and abandoned."

Note: those aren't spires that one seems to see along the top of the elevator; those are Y-shaped spouts, seen in relief. (When you see Orrin's pictures of the Standard Elevator, which I will post in the next few days, you'll see what I mean.)

On this, the side of the Marine "A" that faces the water, Orrin has captured one of my attempts at graffiti art. It says, Ruin of the modern spectacle. The ruined structure that dominates the picture is the bottom of one of the elevator's two mobile marine towers ("loose legs").

The Wheeler Elevator (aka Agway/GLF)

Now I'll turn to grain elevators that haven't been demolished, but may no longer be accessible to photographers. It seems fitting to begin with the Wheeler Elevator (built of out of reinforced concrete in 1909), which lies at the heart of the completely abandoned complex formerly owned and operated by Agway/GLF, because back in 1992 -- when Orrin Pavan and I snuck into the place and wondered around it for almost three hours before someone discovered our intrusion and asked us who we were -- we were told, "It's a good thing you're leaving, because if our guard dog gotta hold of you, you'd be in trouble right now." Or something like that.

In the photograph above (not taken by Orrin), the original 1909 bins plus the original marine tower (thus one of the oldest marine towers in Buffalo) appear -- if the whole complex can be likened to a baseball diamond -- at "home plate." At "first base" we see the flour mill (and more concrete grain bins that lead back from the tower) that were designed by AE Baxter and constructed by James Stewart in 1936. And at the "second" and "third bases," we see the huge annex designed by AE Baxter and constructed by Hydro in 1942.

Orrin's picture (above) finds us inside the marine tower, where we see parts of the machine's wood-and-rope drive system.

The H&O Oats Grain Elevator

I might as well as continue in the direction of grain elevators in Buffalo that have been destroyed in the last few years: around the time that the Wollenberg burned down, the steel-binned H&O Oats Elevator (designed by HR Wait & Monarch Engineering in 1931) was razed to make room for a casino that still hasn't been built yet.

As I mention on page 405 of American Colossus, when Orrin and I visited the H&O Oats in 1992, the basement was permanently flooded. And, although someone had laid out a series of bridges that allowed passage to the stairs that in turn led to the top of structure, we decided to go no further than the vantage point at which Orrin took the picture above.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Wollenberg Grain Elevator and Feed Mill

Built in 1912 out of the wood salvaged from the old Kellogg "B" Elevator (which itself dated back to 1892), the Wollenberg Grain Elevator and Feed Mill managed to stay in business until 1987, when it suddenly closed and was abandoned. In 1990, the Wollenberg -- the only wood-binned country elevator in Buffalo -- was selected for documentation by the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and in 2003 the Wollenberg was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Despite these honors, the Wollenberg was never properly cleaned or secured by the City of Buffalo. In point of fact, it was one big firetrap: filled with piles of flour, grain dust and feed. On 1 October 2006, the Wollenberg was partially destroyed by a fire of uncertain origin; on 3 October 2006, whatever remained was torn down by the City of Buffalo.

In 1992, Orrin Pava and I visited the Wollenberg. These are the photographs that Orrin took.

Grain dust (and cobwebs) cover the machinery inside.

Piles of raw grain dumped on the floor.

Looking down into one of the wooden grain bins. Bags as well as raw grain are at the bottom.

Spouts in the ceiling.

Good news, everybody!

During a recent trip to Buffalo, New York, my dear friend Orrin Pava gave me DOZENS of photographs that he took during our grain elevator explorations in that city during 1991 and 1992. In the coming days and weeks, I'll be posting scans of those exciting pictures to this blog. You will see it was worth the wait!