In Hutchinson, foundries create cast of thousands of manhole covers

Castings Plants Held Not Needed

Hutchinson’s industrial development is apparently not wanting in respect to foundries and the manufacture of metal castings.

Interviews with managers of two local firms bear this out. Frank Hulet of M.W. Hartmann Manufacturing Co., 120 North Adams, and Joe O’Sullivan, Sr., of Hutchinson Foundry and Steel Co., Washington and D, both report the Hutchinson market does not near utilize their capacities for production.

“We have more capacity available than is being utilized by local firms,” said Hulet. His company produces gray iron, alloy iron, brass, bronze and aluminum castings. In 1957 they produced 600 tons of gray iron and alloy castings. They did business in Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Nebraska and Missouri.

Hulet pointed out that at the present time they are capable of producing over twice that amount. The company has a second plant at 400 West 2nd in Hutchinson.

M.W. Hartmann Manufacturing Co. makes castings for such industries as hydraulic, agricultural, farm equipment, oil field and municipal. “We furnish our own castings, too,” Hulet said.

O’Sullivan said the work of the Hutchinson Foundry and Steel Co. deals principally with municipal and farm implement castings. They also make iron water well screen.

“The local demand is not over 20 per cent of our production for this area,” said O’Sullivan. He felt that production in their field was more than adequate for Hutchinson needs.

Hutchinson Foundry and Steel Co. is equipped for the heavier type casting work. They meet municipal, highway and agricultural needs and do more outlying area business than local business.

Hutchinson has three main foundry firms, the third being Kraus, Inc., 305 South Monroe.

Hulet summed up the job Hutchinson foundries are doing in meeting local needs when he said, “In comparing Hutchinson’s three foundries with other larger cities having less, I feel there is no need for industrial development here along these lines.”

Hutchinson News, January 22, 1958

Note: Manhole covers used in elevators built by Mayer-Osborn Company and J.H. Tillotson, Contractor were made by Hutchinson Foundry. In 2011, a new foundry was announced as a complement to Hutchinson’s growing wind energy industry.

Page City structure exemplifies functional and aesthetic aspects of elevator design

Page City elevator as seen January 26, 2012

Story and photos by Gary Rich

The elevators without a headhouse were called straight-up elevators. J. H. Tillotson, Contractor and Mayer-Osborn Company produced these in the latter 1940s and early 1950s. Their elevators had a smaller diameter pipe that came out about three-quarters up the rail side. Loading a boxcar was time-consuming.

About 1958, there were improvements added for quicker loading of boxcars. These images show the Page City, Kan., elevator. Notice the rail loading chutes are much larger and there are two chutes, so the grain could be loaded equally. These chutes were on all concrete elevators raised during the late 1950s and 1960s. Most boxcars could be loaded within fifteen minutes, whereas on the old wooden elevators it could take up forty-five minutes.

The Page City elevator was built by Johnson-Sampson Construction Company, of Salina, Kan.  It was built about 1958 or 1959. Did Gene Mayer draw up the blueprints for this elevator? We don’t know where he went after the Mayer-Osborn era, which ended after 1955.

Another improvement is the area around the driveway. You can see the three reinforcing columns above the driveway and door. I would think this would add greater strength. The Kanorado, Kan., elevator has a smaller version built out. It is established that Gene Mayer produced the plans for that elevator.

Mysteries surround the origin of Mayer-Osborn Company and its first elevator

By Gary Rich

Let me explain about Wauneta, Neb. I got into a lot of trouble there last week. It was my wife that gave me the trouble. I went into the office trying to gain some information. The lady working inside went into the back room. She had all kinds of blueprints. I wasn’t about to pass up a chance looking at them. It took me over them minutes to look at everything. Needless to say, somebody was over the boiling point when I got back out to the car.

Let me give some other information that we thought about J.H. Tillotson, Contractor. Kristen and I thought Mayer-Osborn took over when Joe passed away. Now, I have proof that this wasn’t the case at all.

I found blue prints that pointed to Denver, but more towards Mayer-Osborn. One set of prints was not for an elevator. It was like footing foundations for a building. One set had the date in the body of blueprint, then there was a box in the lower right hand corner that had the company and another date. The first one had Orrie J. Holmen, Designer, Denver, Colo., but no company name was written there. The body of the blueprint had 1948, but the lower right corner showed 1949.

I found another set that had in the lower right-hand corner the following information; Holmen & Mayer, Designers & Engineers, Denver, Colo. So once Joe Tillotson passed away, I believe Orrie J. Holmen took over the company. We know that Gene Mayer worked for Tillotson–both Tillotson Construction, of Omaha, and J.H. Tillotson, of Denver–as well as Bill Osborn. But I could not find any dates for these blueprints.

Yet another set of blueprints had Holmen & Mayer, 1717 East Colfax, Denver, Colo. This is the exact address that is on the Mayer-Osborn brochure. I found even another set of blueprints, which are not blue. They are on clear paper or yellow paper. It shows the old elevator, which is the one without the headhouse. In the lower right-hand corner, it has the following information; Mayer-Osborn, 5100 York Street, Denver, Colo. But there is no date in the lower right corner box.

Kristen found a small article in the Farmers’ Elevator Guide which was a monthly magazine. It told about Mayer-Osborn moving to the address at 5100 York St. It stated that it gave them more room at this location.

This is my guess and my guess only that this is the way company names happened:

  1. J.H. Tillotson, Contractor
  2. Orrie J. Holmen or Holmen Construction
  3. Holmen & Mayer Construction
  4. Mayer-Osborn Co.

Kristen originally told me that Mayer-Osborn started in 1946. I still think the company name was Tillotson. She mentions that Mayer-Osborn built the McCook, Nebr., elevator, which was their first; however, the plaque inside the elevator shows 1949.

I am planning another trip to Wauneta in a few weeks. I will try to get permission to get into the elevator, so I can see whose name is on the manhole covers. This will tell us for sure, if it Tillotson or Mayer-Osborn who built the original elevator. I am thinking the original elevator was built either 1947 or 1948.

I want to get to the elevators in McCook, too. The one that Mayer-Osborn built there was another elevator standing a ways from the newer elevator. It is one that has no head house, too. I am hoping that they will let me inside this elevator, so I can find out who built this elevator. Some elevator managers are willing to let me inside the elevators, while others say that I can not go inside due to insurance. I am trying to get inside as many elevators as I can before it comes down that no one will be allowed inside.

♦ ♦ ♦

Kristen Cart explains:

Some of the mystery can be explained by the sequence of events leading to the establishment of the Mayer-Osborn Company.  J. H. Tillotson, Contractor was owned by Joe Tillotson. My father told me that Mr. Morris, Joe Tillotson’s construction superintendent, died in a roadside accident while changing a tire early in 1947. Within a month, Joe Tillotson died in a car accident, which we know was in March 1947. The only one left in the company who had contractor experience and construction expertise was William Osborn. It seems apparent to Dad that Gene Mayer had an independent architecture and engineering firm, which worked on projects with J. H. Tillotson, Contractor. For a period of time Gene Mayer was partnered with Orrie Holmen. My Dad says his father started an independent company called Osborn Construction, but it became very immediately apparent that he needed a partner.

This differs from Gary’s interpretation, but since Gary was at the site, talking to the people there, his thinking about it carries some weight. So we need to find more documentation.

In a newspaper story about the building of the McCook elevator in 1949, Bill Osborn was interviewed. He said Mayer-Osborn was incorporated  in September 1948. We do not have any documentation of William Osborn’s interim business other than two elevators that he said he built in 1947, according to the same newspaper account, in Fairbury and Daykin, Nebraska. They probably fulfilled contracts already won by J. H. Tillotson, Contractor.

In the same newspaper article, the author said the Wauneta elevator was built in 1945, which makes us wonder about the purpose of the later dated blueprints that were found there. The yellow blueprint that Gary found at Wauneta could only have been produced after May, 1953, which is when the Farmers’ Elevator Guide announced Mayer-Osborn’s move, from 1717 East Colfax Avenue in Denver, to 5100 York Street in Denver.

The sequence of events Gary describes above accurately tracks Gene Mayer’s business of engineering and architecture that built these elevators.  The business relationship that existed with my grandfather is something we will continue to explore.

William Osborn’s photo of the Kanorado, Kansas, elevator

By Kristen Osborn Cart

This is an image that was in my grandfather’s papers when he died. It was his photo, since he was the only photographer in the family. This was the only elevator image he identified on the back. The caption was “Kanorado, KA, 125,000 bu.” I know Grandpa worked on it because he photographed it. We know it was built before March of 1947, which was the month Joe Tillotson died.

Grandpa was working for Tillotson Construction of Omaha as late as the fall of 1944 through the spring of 1945, when Giddings, Texas, was built. Dad visited Grandpa on the Giddings job, so he was able to date it–they visited in early 1945, the spring, when Dad turned eleven years old. That means the Kanorado elevator was built circa 1945 to 1947.

It may be hard to find information on Joe Tillotson’s business because he was independent for such a short time–even though there were quite a few elevators to his name.

¶ Ronald’s note: While posting this, I gave Kan-o-RAY-do a call and was told that original records pertaining to the elevator’s construction burned in an office fire.

Details of the Kanorado, Kansas, elevator by J.H. Tillotson, Contractor

Story and Photos by Gary Rich

Kanorado, Kansas–J.H. Tillotson, Contractor, of Denver, built this elevator. Here’s a view of the south side. Note the windows near the top. J.H. Tillotson and Mayer-Osborn built the no-headhouse elevators with different window arrangements.






This view shows the elevator, the office building and feed mill. I do not have a date for when it was built.






The office and feed mill were built at the same time.








This is a manhole cover inside the elevator.





Gary Rich analyzes the leaning Maywood, Nebraska, elevator and storage annex

Ever since Kristen got me interested in the history of elevators, I am always looking for new avenues. One thing that I have noticed that Tillotson Construction Company, J. H. Tillotson, Contractor, and Mayer-Osborn Construction built grain elevators in eastern Colorado and western Kansas. However, I never knew them to build the storage annexes. There are cases in which one of these companies built the grain elevator; then another company called Chalmers & Borton would be in the same town within three to five years building a storage annex.

I was very excited when I walked up to the annex at Maywood, Nebraska. I saw the manhole covers had Mayer-Osborn on them. I knew that I found my first annex that was built by one of the three companies.

There is a major problem with this annex at Maywood. You can see the cracks in the annex and where they have tried patching them. I drove back to Maywood several days later. Part of the annex still has grain in it. I talked with a person at the office. They are planning on tearing down the annex sometime this year or 2013. They have not made up their mind if they will save the elevator or not. When you are standing looking at both the elevator and annex, it is hard to say which is leaning the most. It looks like the elevator is leaning towards the annex. But on the other hand, the annex is leaning towards the elevator. The image that shows the grain dryer, the bin nearest the elevator, has been emptied, as well as the center bin. The north side still has grain in the all the bins, as well as the bin on the southwest corner (the image that has the sunlight on it).

I finally found a grain annex that these companies built, but it will be history soon.