Images of Wooden Square-Bin Grain Elevators through history and across the continent. (Diagnostics are in a separate webpage.)
Grain Elevators are ubiquitous buildings, yet there is little popular understanding of them and their origins.
The basic arrangement of a grain elevator fits into two different "Type Families" based on whether it is a discrete building ("Self-Contained"), or a semi-dispersed cluster of structures (Annex).
Within those classifications, there are several distinctive types based on grain bin design and arrangment. Construction material and assembly then determine different subtypes or material variants.
An index to this and related typologies spells out the interrelationships concisely (without the clutter of images and descriptive text). Related and similar building and structure types are in a sibling websection.
"Standard Elevator," Chillicothe, Ross County, Ohio, USA - 11 December 1987.
Ah, "Standard Elevator," my martyr, the one that got me started "collecting" grain elevators.
The elevator itself is bookended by a railroad station in front, and a railroad warehouse in back, both which were soon integrated into the elevator operations. The station (and presumably the warehouse also) was built in 1866 along a spur track at the head of the downtown. I think the elevator was built about 1872.
Too much to show and tell - more here in the Standard Elevator webpage.
A neighbor in Chillicothe, Ohio, down the street from "Standard Elevator," this is the "Standard Ceral" elevator, in 1907 or soon after. It disappeared between the 1930s and 1960. Note the large building behind it.
The below image is a slightly earlier one, from 1903, when the canal still held water.
This is an 1889 bird's-eye-view map showing probably a grain elevator (possibly a coal tipple), at a somewhat remote location off a street and at the crossing of two railroads on the south edge of Chillicothe, Ohio. (There is a c1900 photo of it in a period business booklet, but I can't find it yet...)
Pacific Grain Elevator at St. Paul & Pacific Railway Station on Washington Av. and Third Ave. N. in, Minneapolis.
This is an absolutely charming historical photo of a grain elevator in its original historical habitat - sparse vegetation, piles of wood for industrial applications, wooden board sidewalk, unpaved streets, telegraph lines, woodburning locomotive with 'sunflower' stack, clerestory passenger railcars, freight stacked on train platform. Beautiful. Ahh, and not a single 'infernal combustion'-propelled vehicle in sight... The photographer appears to be on a roof or in a second-floor window. (Here's the entire photograph, with even more activity!)
The tree appears to be 20 to 25 years old, and certainly began growing after the grain elevator was built. With the date of the photo as 1874, this indicates the building dates to about 1850-1855 (rounding off).
The grain elevator has a somewhat large headhouse, but otherwise is a "country" grain elevator. Sited against the railroad fill, it has a partly exposed basement, with a window visible on the right bottom. A window to the ground floor appears to peek over the cabin of the locomotive.
The drive shed has a trim hipped roof - and even pierced wooden brackets on the doorway corners! Those Victorians. The wall does not extend all the way downwards on the left side, leaving the bases of the studs exposed. This is wise - if the siding were in contact with the ground, decay would ensue much sooner. A rain-diverting strip appears to be over the right side of the doorway, probably to divert drippage over people entering it on the side. This drive shed certainly did not last long, with the increasing sizes of railroad equipment. It is clearly the predecessor of the drive shed built for truck delivery and hauling in the 20th century. Oddly, the train sitting on the elevator spur is not there to be serviced by it - only passenger cars are visible, and no freight cars.
Lumber braces mounted vertically on the upper part of the elevator body indicate that this is probably of balloon-frame / stud-walled construction. These appear to have been mounted in the center of the bins. However, they are spaced unequally, which may indicate unequal bin sizes and/or gap for stairway and access.
The approximately 2.75-story-tall headhouse has two bands of windows. Walkways with railing are on the main and headhouse roof ridges, and the front and back of the headhouse base. They are presumably for fire safety - to visually inspect the shingle roof for embers sent up by the wood-burning locomotive of the time. This researcher has never seen such accoutrements, heard of them, or seen evidence of them; presumably with these this grain elevator was given better protection that the avarage elevator.
Minnesota Historical Society - 345 Kellogg Blvd. West, St. Paul, MN - 651/296-6126 Copyright © 2002. Photograph Collection 1874 - Location no. MH5.9 MP3.1P p83 - Negative no. 825.
A now-vanished small-town elevator in south-Central Ohio. The asymetrical cupola implies that the rear indentation has been enclosed for additional equipment. I can't quite remember the interior other than the stairway to the top was your typically twisted, steep grain elevator stairway. The top part, into the cupola, was little more than a ladder.
See more at its webpage.
Milan Elevator Company, Milan, Michigan, USA. 3 October 1991. See more at its webpage.
"Farmers Exchange" grain elevator, Mount Sterling, Madison County, Ohio. See more at its webpage.
"Carroll Elevator," Carroll, Fairfield County, Ohio, USA - 24 January 1992.
A "country grain elevator" at the head of the Hocking Valley, along the C&O railroad and near the former Hocking Canal.
"Mt. Victory Elevator," Mount Victory, Hardin County, Ohio, USA - 10 June 1991. See more at its webpage.
A small town in central northwest Ohio features this wood frame "country grain elevator" at the heart of an annex facility.
A great archival image of another, long-vanished, smaller-town elevator in south-Central Ohio (near my alma mater elementary school)...though this may be only a grist mill, and not an elevator.
Unusual for a grain elevator, there was never any railroad near this one. It may have been built in speculation that one of the several railroads proposed to run through Paint Valley might actually be built, but they were never more than dreams reported in the local newspapers. "Bourneville Mills" is a lot less prim and tidy, and a lot more scrappier, than the above Minneapolis elevator. This burned and was never rebuilt. Its site has been a gravel parking lot for as long as I have known (about 30 years).
Note the graduated height of the floors. The first floor (or ground floor) is relatively low. The one above it is typical height. The third floor appears to be taller (if the gable window is the same height above floor level as the others). The windows are also shifted in towards the center, probably to light work areas in the center between the grain bins that are probably along the side walls.
The "mill" part appears to be the false-fronted two-story addition on the right. It's clearly an addition - there is no clear seam, but the weatherboarding has been slid partly over onto the elevator's core, creating a ragged seam a few feet to the left of the mill addition's edge. Also, it makes the buiding asymetrical. Behind it is the boiler furnace big smokestack, with three huge gangly guy wires.
(Alternately, this is no grain elevator - it has no cupola - and is simply a grain mill, perhaps with minor storage bins. The right-side addition is for offices and storage...)
On the right is an added one-and-a-half story lean-to that appears to be a stabling shed for horses and/or wagon storage, with hay storage above - and added to that, and one-story lean-to for wagon storage. [From the collection of June Gregg, Bainbridge, Ohio]
Bourneville is one of those towns on a two-lane highway that lack a stoplight, and if you blink as you're driving down the road, you'll miss it. (My kind of town to look for derelict but preserved architectural history!)
A nice pair in Cortland, south-central Indiana. I presume one (probably the rear one, with the main roof ridge parallel to the former railroad and now truck lane) is an addition to the facility.
These are two versions of a large wooden elevator on the shoreline in a detail of two 1867 bird's-eye-view maps of Wynona, Wisconsin, available as a zoomable image 1 or image 2 online from the Library of Congress.
This is may be a wooden elevator - though I am increasingly thinking it is a mill or factory of some sort - in an industrial area in a detail of a 1867 bird's-eye-view map of Cairo, Illinois, available as a zoomable image online from the Library of Congress.
This is a medium-sized wooden elevator - though I am increasingly thinking it is a mill or factory of some sort - on a millrace in a detail of a 1867 bird's-eye-view map of Bloomington, Illinois, available as a zoomable image online from the Library of Congress.
This is probably a medium-sized wooden elevator on a rail line in a detail of an 1867 bird's-eye-view map of Aurora, Illinois, available as a zoomable image online from the Library of Congress.
A lovely view of a row of elevators on the Canadian prairie. Though it may not look it, this photo dates to about 1950! The Wood Grain Elevator had a long life, especially in the northern breadbasket.
These are the 4 (or 5, depending on how you count them) elevators that are a restoration project in the town of Inglis, Manitoba, Canada.