Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Accident destroys significant marine tower in Buffalo

On 2 December 2011, while demolishing part of the Agway/GLF Complex on Ganson Road in Buffalo, New York, Ontario Specialty Contracting accidentally knocked the marine tower of the old Wheeler Elevator into the Buffalo River.

(Photo courtesy WIVB.)

This is a sad end for the oldest marine tower (the building in which an elevator that unloads grain from ships is installed) left in Buffalo, the city in which the marine tower was invented by Robert Dunbar in 1843. The shaft in which the conveyor-buckets were housed can be seen, in the photo below, pointing straight down into the water, rather dejectedly.

(Photo courtesy WIVB.)

Designed and build by Monarch Engineering in 1909, the Wheeler Elevator was a modern marvel. Powered by electricity from Niagara, its marine leg could unload grain at the rate of 18,000-20,000 bushels per hour. The main house -- one of the very first in Buffalo to be built out of reinforced concrete -- could store 700,000 bushels in bins that ranged in capacity from 4,000 to 40,000 bushels. Wedged between the river and several train spurs, the Wheeler could load grain into canal boats, rail cars and even wagons. In the words of The Operative Miller, volume 15 (1910), the elevator was also equipped with "a complete system of intercommunicating telephones."

(Above: The Wheeler at its prime. Photo courtesy WIVB.)

According to an article published almost two years ago in the Buffalo News, "the complex, which shut down in the mid-1970s, was acquired for about $90,000 by Ontario Specialty Contracting" -- the complex's next door neighbor -- "in October 2009, for the purpose of partial demolition, after the city and the property's [former] owner showed no inclination to deal with repeated building code violations." That former owner, a marina operator, had used the complex only for its access to the Buffalo River.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Nice mention

According to SUNY at Buffalo professor Lynda Schneekloth, writing in the 20 January 2011 issue of Artvoice, "the grand volume on the history of the type [is] by William Brown, American Colossus: The Grain Elevator (2009)." Thanks, Lynda!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sales figures to date

American Colossus: the Grain Elevator 1843 to 1943 was published in February 2009. Over the course of the last two years, it has sold a total of 140 copies: 21 through (the book's printer); 52 through; and 67 through Colossal Books. That's just almost six copies per month! We are pleased.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Talk at Great Lakes GEAPS annual educational convention

Thanks to Darren Zink (Strategic Accounts Manager at Brock Grain Systems), I will be speaking at the annual educational convention of the Great Lakes chapter of the Grain Elevator and Processing Society to be held at Pokagon State Park in Angola, Indiana, on Thursday, April 7, 2011. See you there?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Wood Elevator in Cleveland: Follow-Up

As I reported several months ago, there is a wood grain elevator in Cleveland, Ohio, that is said to date from the Civil War. If this is true, this elevator might well be the oldest of its kind still standing in North America.

From a distance, I have learned that the area in which this elevator is located (1635 Merwin Avenue) used to be the northern terminus of the Ohio & Erie Canal, which was in use between 1829 and 1872. There used to be a canal basin across from the elevator, which is located on the banks of the Cayahoga River. It seems that the site was once occupied by the Cleveland Steam Mill (a steam-powered flour mill) and the Cleveland Linseed Oil Works.

Unfortunately, the current owners of the structure haven't been very helpful. I called the plant manager of Cereal Food Processors (the current owner of the property) and was referred to the company headquarters in Kansas City. To date, several calls to the latter have gone unanswered.