The elevator in Odebolt, Iowa exemplifies the integrity of Mayer-Osborn’s style

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Story and photos by Kristen Cart

In March I had the chance to stop in Odebolt, Iowa, to investigate one of the last elevators built by Mayer-Osborn Construction, the company based in Denver and headed by my grandfather William Osborn and his partner Eugene Mayer.

Odebolt is a middling town in western Iowa. The grain facility looked deserted when I drove up, except for a man with a skid loader doing something I couldn’t quite make out. He disappeared through the elevator driveway, and was nowhere to be seen when I drove around to the other side.

A busy fertilizer operation sat adjacent to the elevator, and when I stepped into a nearby office, I had the pleasure of meeting the mayor of Odebolt, Mike Hoefling. He said I missed my mark and should drive past the bank (a neoclassical, tidy marble edifice in the center of town) to find the co-op in a green building. It was easy to find.

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The neoclassical-styled bank makes a stately neighbor to the sprawling grain facility in Odebolt, Iowa.

As a result of the April 1st merger of two Iowa stalwarts–the Farmers Cooperative Company and the West Central Cooperative, the Odebolt elevator complex will lose its “FC” signage and gain the name Landus. Landus is a brand new, giant cooperative based in Ames, Iowa (painters will soon be dangling off the sides of elevators all over Iowa implementing the name change). During my visit, the co-op in Odebolt was adjusting to its first day under new management.

A lady greeted me outside the co-op (I regret that I did not get her name). I asked her who built the old elevator, and when. She said she didn’t know, but at that moment a truck drove up, and she and two companions pointed out the driver and said he would know. As soon as the man stepped from the truck, she said “Do you remember when the old elevator was built?” The man, probably in his fifties, looked a little stunned and said “No!” Everyone howled with laughter. The 1950s vintage elevator was already on the scene before he was born.

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A vintage photo found in a 1974 history of the town, showing the Mayer-Osborn elevator.

The gentleman driving the truck introduced himself as Tim Gunderson. He said he worked at the elevator part-time to “help out,” but his full time work was farming. He offered to take me to the elevator to check it out. I hopped in the truck, and off we went.

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Tim Gunderson, standing in a basement doorway. Each concrete archway is beveled at the edge–for what purpose? We don’t know.

The elevator, sporting a stepped headhouse much like the McCook, Neb., elevator my grandfather built, was set among a cluster of newer additions. It sat silent, Tim said, because a leg had become clogged and awaited repairs. Tim led the way and I followed, donning a safety vest per regulations, and we entered the driveway and from there proceeded into the heart of the elevator.

Tim pointed out the “blue leg” which was the original, he said. Mayer-Osborn Construction painted the trim on all of its elevators blue–including the metal exterior of the leg.

We were on a level of the elevator beneath the bins (but not all the way into the pit) where a grain conveyor ran beneath the attached annex. Tim pointed out the workmanship and detailing of the concrete. “They didn’t have to do this,” he said, pointing to a neat beveled edge. “No one would ever see it here.”

According to Tim, the elevator was built with a pride of workmanship that you never see today. I noticed the same thing as we toured the elevator–utilitarian, routine equipment was thoughtfully designed to create a harmonious whole, imparting an impression of completeness and integrity.

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Neatness and graceful style, down to the switches and pulleys, exemplify a Mayer-Osborn elevator.

The elevator was impressive. It was remarkably clean and dust-free, a sign of a safety-conscious operation.

Tim also took the time to help me discover the vintage of the old house, and to this end we made several stops and visited more folks in the town. In the next post we will share more photos of this iconic elevator and delve into its history.

 

8 comments on “The elevator in Odebolt, Iowa exemplifies the integrity of Mayer-Osborn’s style

  1. Chandler Thomas says:

    The edges of the openings are chamfered (beveled) to make removal of the insert (form) that creates the opening easier and to reduce potential damage to the concrete as the insert is removed. You may notice the absence of square corners in the still formed and slip formed walls. Square corners in a slip have significantly increased drag on the form and a tendency to not slip (hang up).

    • kocart says:

      Thanks, Chandler, for explaining the technique. I had thought of the problem of ragged edges, but had not considered whether the structure would be compromised. Now it makes perfect sense. Readers like you enrich the blog and help keep us on the technical straight and narrow. I appreciate your contribution. The effect of the corner finishing method you described is pleasing to the eye, so I suppose that is a bonus!

  2. Suzassippi says:

    Isn’t it great when you encounter people who help you find what you are seeking? I think the photo at the top of the page is such an interesting juxtaposition.

    • kocart says:

      The warning placards are on every elevator by regulation, since the dangerous areas are not obvious to a visitor or intruder. They also contribute to a colorful photo. Thanks for your comment!

  3. brad Perry says:

    Kristen,
    Were you able to learn about the origins of the bank building and of the Adams Ranch while you were there?

  4. […] Recently, I took a detour quite out of the way of the Interstate system to visit the town of Odebolt, where my grandfather, William Osborn, built an elevator. I introduced the western Iowa site in a previous post. […]

  5. Charlene Hickok says:

    The elevator at McCook, Nebraska, built by Mayer-Osborne, was built under a foreman by the name of Cecil B. Garrison, probably in 1958. I am looking for a list of all the elevators my father was foreman on, during those years. He also worked as foreman for Chambers and Barton. Would appreciate any info that any one might have. tchickok@cox.net

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