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"The magnificent first fruits of the new age."
- Le Courbusier
No image dominates the Midwestern landscape like the monolithic grain elevator, whose present shape and construction owe much to grain company operator Frank Peavy and architect-builder Charles Haglin.
Wanting to improve on the flammability and cost of traditional wood-cribbed construction, Peavy speculated that reinforced concrete, in its infancy at the turn of the century, would outperform other materials. But critics feared that the elevator would collapse due to the vacuum created when grain was emptied from the air-tight structure.
To prove them wrong, Haglin built the elevator to a height of 68 feet, filled it and emptied it. It was rock solid. The elevator was then raised to 125 feet and became the prototype for many others across the Midwest.
1. The Peavy-Haglin grain elevator is 125 feet high and has an inside diameter of 20 feet. The walls are 12 inches thick at the base, tapering to 8 inches at the top. It can hold 30,000 bushels.
2. Not only was the elevator's construction material unusual but also its shape. The most advanced elevators in the major grain producing countries of Europe were typically square or hexagonal.
3. Many materials were being experimented with at the time; iron sheeting, steel, tile, brick, granite and concrete block. Peavy and Haglin's experiment soon laid all of them to rest.
4. Haglin used wooden forms braced with steel hoops to form the concrete, removing and reusing the forms in the same way that concrete is poured today.
5. Ironically, the elevator was never used for commercial grain storage. Today it is owned by Northland Aluminum Products, Inc.
6. Charles Haglin was to gain fame as a builder for many other projects in the Minneapolis area, such as The Grain Exchange, the Pillsbury Building and the Radisson Hotel.
Lisa Mahar-Keplinger. Grain Elevators, Princeton Architectural Press, Inc., 1993.