Scale houses express graceful utility, epitomize contemporary style

Daykin, Neb. scale house built by J. H. Tillotson, Contractor

Daykin, Neb., scale house built by J. H. Tillotson, Contractor.

Story and photos by Kristen Cart

An often unnoticed feature of every grain elevator is the scale house. The scale house is home to the cooperative site office, and is the place where the elevator conducts its primary business. It is usually an unassuming building where empty grain trucks pull up to be weighed before filling up. The trucks make a second visit when laden with grain, and the difference in weight is tallied in the office. Conversely, when a full grain truck pulls up to deposit its grain, it must return after unloading to determine how much has been loaded into the elevator. Inside the scale house, a small sample of the grain is tested for quality and moisture content.

The scale house in Benton, Kan.

The scale house in Benton, Kan.

Many scale houses are metal or brick buildings, often unattached to the elevator and some distance away. Most are  unremarkable. But some of the old concrete scale houses have unique charm. The scale houses that accompanied J. H. Tillotson elevators were particularly attractive, and are one of the first things to look for when identifying their elevators.

Scale house in Willows, Calif.

Scale house in Willows, Calif.

DSC_0538

Other builders also produced some remarkable scale houses. Elevator building was driven by engineering and economical constraints, but in some cases the scale houses received special attention. In Willows, Calif., I photographed an example that had to take first prize. This dandy building recalls a 1960s drive-in burger joint, complete with car-side speakers and root beer floats. While it is not an example of our grandfathers’ work, it deserves notice.

The simple lines of the back of the scale house at Kanorado, Kan.

The simple lines of the back of the scale house at Kanorado, Kan.

Joseph H. Tillotson developed a characteristic style for the scale houses his company built. Those I have visited appeared to be concrete, and many had attractive details. For more typical examples of his work, stay tuned.

A photo tour at Kanorado, Kansas, reveals subtle J. H. Tillotson design details

DSC_0642Story and photos by Kristen Cart

One of the best stops on my elevator tour last October was Kanorado, Kan. It was a fortuitous visit, made in the golden hour of photographic light. We have profiled the elevator before, based upon a visit by Gary Rich while the elevator was operating and open for an impromptu tour. But I wanted to see for myself the elevator my grandfather William Osborn built.

No one was there when we arrived, but I was able to get a good look at all sides of the structure. The straight up, classic lines were unique to  J. H. Tillotson elevators.

DSC_0664

A view of the integral headhouse with windows to admit light

Other companies built similarly styled elevators, such as the Greenwood, Neb. elevator built by Tillotson of Omaha in 1951. But those differed in shape and concrete detailing. The elevator at Kanorado was an earlier effort, and should be compared with those at Traer, Kan., Goodland, Kan., and Wauneta, Neb., among others.

DSC_0655

Late afternoon shadows are cast across the drive-through scale

 

Another design element that seems to be unique to Joseph H. Tillotson’s Denver-based company is the squat concrete scale house, a deceptively simple building with lovely proportions, as can also be seen with the J. H. Tillotson elevator at Daykin, Neb.

DSC_0687It is good to see another 1940s vintage elevator still doing its job nearly 70 years later. It is a testament to a work ethic that seems quaint in our present day, and a personal investment in quality beyond the next payday. My grandfather would be proud.

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.