Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Standard Elevator

The Standard Elevator was designed by A.E. Baxter Engineering and built by James Stewart Engineering in Buffalo, NY, in 1928. An extension was added in 1942 by M.-Hague.

In 1992, Orrin Pava and I were given a guided tour of the facility by a man named Chris, who (as I remember) was the elevator's superintendent. Then owned by Pillsbury, the facility was being used to unload boats from the Great Lakes/New York State Barge Canal and transship the grain to neighboring flour mills via railcars and trucks. But when Orrin and I returned to the place in April 2010, it appeared that the elevator, "now" owned by ADM, was no longer operating.

One of the Standard's marine legs, thrust into the hull of the J.L. Mauthe.

A view of the leg, extended from the marine tower, into the boat's hold.

At the top of the marine tower, the grain is conducted towards the main house through "Y" spouts that have been erected on top of it.

Part of the machinery that garners the grain into batches and weighs it out. Note the wheel that turns the flow on and off: not an instance of "pure" utility or "form following function," but an instance of "useless" decoration and aesthetic beauty!

A horizontal conveyor-belt system waits to receive the grain from the garner and scale above.

The chart upon which the bins inside the "B-House" -- the extension built in 1942 -- are represented. Since the contents of the various bins (both full and interstitial) are temporary, they are "recorded" in chalk and then erased when the account has been cleared.

(All photos 1992 by Orrin Pava.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

The tile bins at the old Washburn-Crosby Elevator

The grain bins at the center of this picture (there are nine of them in total, only three of which face us) were designed and constructed by the Barnett-Record Company for the Washburn-Crosby Flour Milling Company in 1903. The only bins in Buffalo to be built out of tile, and one of the earliest examples of tile-bin construction in North or South America, they are now part of the General Mills Flour complex. (Photo 1992 by Orrin Pava.)

The American Elevator

Designed and built by the James Stewart Engineering Company in 1906, the American Elevator is one of Buffalo's greatest elevators. It is remarkable for its storage bins, which are among the first in America to be built out of reinforced concrete, and for its marine towers. There are two of them: one mobile (on the left), the other fixed in position(right). Though these towers used ropes in their drive systems, they were still in operation during the 1990s.

Here the American's legs work upon a single vessel. Note the horizontal conveyor belt in the upper left: it carries grain over to Perot Malting, which also includes historic bins made out of reinforced-concrete (built in 1907). They are visible on the left side of the photo at the top of this entry.

In the lower left of the photo above: the spectacular ruins of the Marine "A."

(Both photos were taken by Orrin Pava in 1992.)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Concrete Central Elevator

I've already mentioned the Concrete Central Elevator, which still stands and probably remains accessible at ground level, but no higher (the stairs having been removed?).

There is a lot to see at the ground level, that is, in the "basement"of this colossal grain elevator (built between 1915 and 1917 and capable of storing 4.5 million bushels).

There is the magnificent hall-like effect created by the huge amount of space that exists underneath the reinforced-concrete structure that holds the iron hoppers and spouts that are attached to the bottoms of the grain bins. (Note that some spouts are coming down from interstitial bins, which do not require hoppers.)

A photo that documents just one of many such hoppers at the Concrete Central.

The only way Orrin and I managed to obtain this view of the three rusted-out, formerly mobile marines towers at the Concrete Central was to climb the stairs all the way to top of its neighbor on the Buffalo River, the Superior Elevator, where the degree of deterioration was just as bad.

(All photos on this page taken by Orrin Pava.)

Horn Buttons at the Superior Elevator

I've already mentioned the Superior Elevator, which still stands but might not be accessible any more (stairs to the top removed?). On page 406 of American Colossus, I state:

On a wall at the bin-floor level of the Superior Elevator, next to a button that caused a horn to sound and thus alert everyone in the area that the 'loose leg' (the automotive marine tower) was about to go into operation, Orrin and I saw the stenciled image of a Native American warrior in silhouette and the word HORNBLOWER.

Either we didn't manage to take a picture of that particular graffito, or my memory has deceived me; in either case -- as you can see -- the graffiti speaks of "Horn Buttons" not "Horn Blowers." But my point remains the same: there's a close (and unusual, certainly unique) association of Native American imagery with buttons that signal by the use of horns that a marine leg is going into operation.

(Note: there is something stenciled below the phrase "Horn Button," but I can only make out a part of it, that is, its top line, which says "2 HORNS SCALE FLOOR.")

Not only is this association between Native American warriors and grain elevator operators close, it is also repeated.

Indeed, it is repeated over and over again.

What's going on here? Was the Native American warrior part of the Superior Elevator's corporate logo? Not likely: "Superior" referred to Superior Flour, not any tribe associated with Lake Superior. Was the warrior part of the logo of the unionized team that ran the elevator? Possible, but not likely in a business dominated, at least on the local level, by people of Irish descendent.

At some point, it doesn't matter, precisely because it is the appearance of Native American imagery in a ruined grain elevator (the basement floors of which were permanently flooded when Orrin and I were there in 1991 and 1992) that creates the feeling that the place is haunted by ghosts, that is to say, the ghosts of dead Native American warriors.

(All photos on this page were taken by Orrin Pava.)

Which grain elevator is this?

Neither Orrin nor I can remember where he took this photograph, which shows a chart -- scrawled by hand upon a wall made of reinforced concrete -- that records the names of the boats that were unloaded (and the amounts of grain they were carrying) in 1980.

The fact that the year is 1980 suggests that he took the photo in the Great Northern Elevator, which ceased operations in 1981 and which we were given a tour of in 1992. But there are no reinforced-concrete walls in the Great Northern. Furthermore, we have no other pictures of this elevator, which suggests we didn't take any photos of it during that tour.

The photo could have been taken in the Superior Elevator, the Wheeler (aka the Agway/GLF), the Concrete Central, or the Standard Elevator, all of which have walls made of reinforced concrete. But the Superior Elevator ceased operations in the 1960s, and the Concrete Central and the Agway/GLF closed down in mid-1970s. As for the Standard Elevator, it remained in operation until the 1990s, if not later, and so wouldn't have though the year 1980 to be worthy of such notoriety.