IHS Built Environment Typology : Structures : Buildings :

Grain Elevators (and Similar and Related Types)

Typology Index : Type Families - Types - Subtypes


The evolution of the Grain Elevator is as fascinating as that of any other significant building type in Material Culture, as testified with the below "thumbnail" sampling of example images used in this webvolume.

The Typology Index (farther below), as well as the linked Chronolgy, help to illustrate that. (Each thumbnail image will also take you to its resident webpage and webchapter.)


Definition of the Grain Elevator

What is a grain elevator? The simplest definition is "combined storage bins and grain-moving devices" (Banham 1987). Another is

a facility which stores dry, small cereal grains (as contrasted, for example, with a crib which stores corn still on the ear, or a silo, which stores moist, fermenting pieces of an entire plant), which handles grain in bulk, rather than in bags of other containers, and which stores, moves and processes grain vertically. (American Institute of Architects Journal, November 1977; emphasis original).


Chronolgy of the Grain Elevator

A draft Chronolgy of the Grain Elevator (as chronolgy part 1 and part 2) illustrates the evolution of the building type, separate from the below Typology.

The grain elevator has its conception in the ingenious ideas of Oliver Evans in 1783, is born in 1842, graduates in the 1850s, matures in the 1880s, turns a corner in 1899...


Typology of the Grain Elevator

The basic arrangement of a grain elevator fits into two main 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 arrangement, and also evolutionary level. Construction materials and design then determine different subtypes or material variants.

This typology is expanded as an indexed list below. (Names in [brackets] are tentative names, awaiting further research into contemporary labels or more appropriate descriptions.)

The following links will take you to the location for each entry in the typologies webpages. The smallest items will take you to separate Diagnostics and Examples webpages.


< WebPage 4: >

  • Post-Modern Grain Elevators!

  • Sometimes whimsical reuse and imaging of grain elevators

  • Model Grain Elevators

  • Hand-held, table-top, and display models...

  • Grain Elevator Images

  • Grain elevators as icons and art

    < WebPage 5: >

    Related and Similar Building Types:



  • Barns
    • Early Grain Elevators have several similarities with their contemporary Barns, as do Warehouses. See the sibling webchapter on Barn types for examples, especially the Yankee Barn.


  • Mills


  • Warehouses


  • "Ag Bag" hay and silage storage 'superbag' packaging

  • Silos


  • [Box] Grain Bins (Dependant Structures)
  • Granaries
  • [Round] Grain Bins (Structures)

  • Corn "Cribs" / Corn Barns

  • [Refuse Burner]

  • Coal Tipples
  • Sometimes similar in appearance to Grain Elevators, but are used to raise, store, and deliver coal. Many types and much variation...


    Which leads you to
  • Grain Elevator Types 1 - Pre-Elevator and Early Types: Grain Warehouses
  • Grain Elevator Types 2aa - Mature Types: Wooden Square-Bin Self-Contained Grain Elevators
  • Grain Elevator Types 2ab - Mature Types: Other Square-Bin Self-Contained Grain Elevators
  • Grain Elevator Types 2b - Mature Types: Round-Bin Self-Contained Grain Elevators
  • Grain Elevator Types 3 - Later Types: Conveyor & Annex Type Grain Elevators
  • Related and Similar Building Types
  • Grain Elevators Chronology