In the fall of 2012, Gary Rich, contributor to this blog, treated me to a photo tour of western Colorado elevators. I made a special stop to meet Gary and his wife Sandy. The last few years Gary has specialized in elevator photography, capturing the beauty and spare elegance of grain elevators, identifying their builders as he went. The Byers, Colo., elevator is one of the loveliest.
Sandy Rich is a very good photographer in her own right, and she has challenged Gary to greater creativity in his compositions. He explained how her inspiration led him away from “documentary” shots and toward more artistic photography. When we stopped at Byers, Colo., we took some of her ideas to heart, and we were very pleased with the results.
Mayer-Osborn construction built the Byers elevator in 1950, as noted in a contemporary newspaper account. My father Jerry Osborn remembers his dad William Osborn working on it.
Retaining some of the characteristics of the earlier J. H. Tillotson elevators, the Byers elevator recalls those at Traer and Hanover, Kan. The Byers elevator is bigger than the Hanover elevator, and you can see where design adjustments accommodate the greater volume. The windows are very similar to those at Traer. The manhole covers on the exterior at Byers represent an innovation to fulfill local needs.
Since elevator designs continued to improve over time, an elevator design genealogy becomes apparent. The innovations cross company boundaries and are seen by looking at elevators chronologically, especially where the same builders and architects continued working in the business, bringing their ideas to one company after another. This is a chronology we are still trying to understand.
As we strive to understand elevator history, we take pictures. Elevators are worthy of our understanding and preservation for their beauty, not just their utility. Beautiful photos convey that message in a way that words can never express.
- The Big Springs, Nebraska elevator proved to be a Mayer-Osborn Construction job (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)
- A Mayer-Osborn superintendent’s budget, from the back of a notepad (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)