The vanished Glidden elevator, a concrete giant, has gone the way of the wood

Story by Kristen Cart

It is tremendously disappointing when you realize an elevator should be there, and isn’t. I recently passed through the north-central Iowa town of Glidden, a small place mostly on the south side of Highway 30. I knew from Tillotson construction records that an elevator and an annex were built in Glidden back during the elevator boom. But though I leaned over to that side of the car to peer at the skyline, hoping to see the familiar white Tillotson elevator outline, all I saw were two hulking bins of another more modern sort.

You learn to expect old wooden elevators to disappear. But the 1940s and ’50s vintage concrete elevators usually are not so quick to go.

Glidden, IA 51443 - Google MapsThis situation would require some investigation, but not on a day when I had to get home, with another 400 miles or so to go. I had at least one more stop planned to see an elevator, at Ralston, a town just a few miles further east, and my three kids tolerated the stops, hanging in there at the frazzled edges of their patience.

When I got home, I resorted to the Internet. Satellite images have become so good that you can virtually identify a builder from above. But in the case of Glidden, there was no sign of an old elevator, only a bulldozed area where the forms for two circular bins had been laid out. Apparently I had not overlooked the desired elevator–it was gone.

NEW Cooperative Inc - Google MapsI didn’t count on being able to date the demolition, but the map’s “street view” came to the rescue. An uploaded photo, watermarked 2013, showed a view of the site from an intersection down the street. From that perspective, the old elevator stood as it always had, since it was built. So the old elevator was probably retired after the last of its grain was out, in time for new bins to be built for the next harvest, sometime in 2013 before winter set in.

I missed my grandfather’s (alleged) McAllaster, Kan., elevator by a couple of months when it was torn down over a year ago. But in the satellite image that was available at the time, you could see where the destruction had begun. Several round bins were newly absent, and holes appeared in the top of the headhouse.

I don’t imagine that satellite engineers envisioned this use for their images.

 

Tillotson Construction builds new elevator in Glidden, Iowa

Glidden—The Tillotson construction company, Omaha, started work Saturday on a new reinforced concrete elevator for the Farmers Co-Operative elevator at Glidden.

Carroll (Iowa) Daily Times Herald, Monday, April 11, 1949

Glidden—As part of an expansion program at the Glidden Farmers Co-operative company, work begun April 13 on a reinforced concrete elevator with a 100,000 bushel capacity is progressing rapidly toward completion.

About 20 feet higher than the present buildings, the new elevator will be situated east of them. With the additional storage space the company, for several years the largest co-operative elevator owned and operated in Iowa, will be able to take care of a large amount of corn and beans grown extensively in the Glidden area.

The 100-ft.-high main storage part of the new elevator is up, and bin bottoms are being covered with concrete and hopper fill.

Approximately 35 men are working 10 hours a day on construction of the new elevator, which is under the direction of the Tillotson Construction company of Omaha.

It is expected to be completed by July or August.

Carroll (Iowa) Daily Times Herald, Wednesday, June 22, 1949