Looking to Greenwood from I-80, we see it, twice as tall as the trees

Co-op from Greenwood from I80 overpass IIII

In this photo, our friend Kim David Cooper shows the same refined sense of composition as in his oil paintings. “A different view of your Greenwood elevator,” he says.

The photo’s slug line notes the shot was taken from an overpass on Interstate 80.

Standing at least twice the height of the tallest tree, doesn’t the elevator make a handsome addition to the landscape?

A glimpse of Firth makes us go forth with speculations and an investigation

Firth, NE Cemetery 2012 II

By Ronald Ahrens

As with yesterday’s post, we’re working from a photo sent by Kim Cooper, a friend of this blog who happens to have grain elevators in his heritage, too. He likes to incorporate them into his superb, plein air landscape paintings.

Sometimes Cooper sends pictures.

“Here’s one from Firth, Nebraska,” he said. “Looks like a rounded top.”

Indeed, the rounded headhouse was the signature on Tillotson Construction Co.’s elevators after about 1950.

But other builders could have used this style. We see no mention of Firth in Tillotson’s records. We see Minatare (1941), Rushville (1947), Polk and Richland (1948), Hordville (1949), Bellwood (1950), Cedar Bluffs (1950), Aurora and Omaha and Wahoo (1950), Greenwood and David City and York (1951), Fairfield (1952), Bellwood (340,000 bushels of storage in 1954), and Waverly (1955).

That’s 15 locations. Tillotson built far more elevators in Iowa and Oklahoma than in the company’s home state of Nebraska. But 15 isn’t bad. Based on anecdotal information we also suspect a couple of other locations. 

But after calling up Dennis Kenning, we’ve ruled out Firth as an unrecorded job by Tillotson. Kenning is sales and marketing manager for Farmers Cooperative, which has headquarters in Dorchester, Neb. and dozens of elevators throughout southeastern Nebraska.

Kenning expressed curiosity, looked into the matter, and emailed his findings:

“Here’s what we found out,” he wrote.

  • Constructed sometime in the ’60s
  • Roberts Const Co.
  • Hutchinson Foundry & Steel
  • Sabetha, Kansas

We found Roberts Construction Co. located in Axtell but were unable to reach them. The question arises about Roberts’ design source–were there any Tillotson connections?

In Waverly, Neb., a Ford is older than the Tillotson elevator of 1955

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Once again, our friend Kim Cooper provides a photo, this time from Waverly, Neb.

Six miles farther southwest on U.S. 6 than Greenwood, featured yesterday, Waverly is very close to Lincoln.

The Tillotson elevator seen on the left in the photo was built here in 1955, a few years after the Ford you see on the lower right.

Waverly is one of the last elevators in the company records, which cover the period from 1939 to 1955.

The elevator followed the plan established at Drummond, Okla., in 1950. This meant a single-leg, center-drive house of 199,400-bushel capacity.

To have so much integrated storage, the plan provided for eight tanks of 15.5 feet in diameter rising to 120 feet in height. The cupola, or headhouse, added another 35 feet.

We can only guess at the meaning of four notes in the record:

  1. Main slab including 3″ pile cap 33 c.y.
  2. 8 bin aerat’n tubes
  3. Dryer bin
  4. Piling

The pit was 15 feet 3 inches deep. Perhaps a high water table or unconsolidated subsurface material at Waverly made the pilings necessary.

The photo shows the elevator in remarkable condition.

We welcome our readers’ interpretation of the notes.

Atmospheric view of a classic Tillotson elevator in Greenwood, Neb.

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Our friend Kim Cooper sent this atmospheric photo from Greenwood, Neb. We see a classic Tillotson grain elevator: single leg, center driveway, rounded headhouse.

It was built in 1951 on the plan established at Churdan, Iowa, some two years earlier. While Churdan was 102,000 bushels, Greenwood–which sits on U.S. 6 between Omaha and Lincoln–had 129,000-bushel capacity.

Each of the four tanks was of 14.5 feet in diameter and rose 120 feet. The cupola, or headhouse, went up another 22 feet.

A note in the records says, “Rainy @ start.” We can imagine the difficulty of excavating the 12-foot-deep pit, setting forms in the mud, and getting the project off the ground.

An additional note is more cryptic: “30-inch slab proj.” I don’t know how to explain it, especially because the main slab was 18 inches thick, as at Churdan.

Yet another note says, “Inside steps. Dryer prov. (split bin).” That one the reader can interpret for himself.

A Tillotson granddaughter connects with family history in Waverly, Neb.

By Kate Oshima

As we drove the Interstate east through Nebraska, a tall grain elevator in the town of Waverly caught my eye. It was shimmering white and rose from the floor of the Great Plains like a lone mountain misplaced by nature. My husband, Roger, offered to stop and explore with me because it was built by my maternal grandfather, Reginald Tillotson.

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Photo by Kristen Cart

I approached the building with excitement at being so close to a place my grandfather had once stood. As I gazed upon the structure I had to crane my neck to view the top. I pictured men working up there to complete it, imagining the winds of the Plains blowing around them to try to topple one of them to the ground.

The building seemed somehow familiar to me. It had the same feeling one got when approaching our grandparents’ home. Grandfather had built a cement house for his family in the 1950s. It was in the style of the grain elevators he constructed.

We enjoyed running around the building looking for the identifying metal markers. The markers were round, rusted, but mostly readable. The name Tillotson Construction and the year of construction were emblazoned upon them.

As I stood before the impressive elevator I could only imagine my grandfather walking this exact spot. I was awed at seeing some of the history from my family surviving.

Driving away I had a better appreciation of the work Grandfather Tillotson had been involved in. A bit of history touched me that day and inspired greater appreciation for those who came before.

Another view of Greenwood, Neb., through the eyes of Kim David Cooper

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In this oil painting, Kim David Cooper captures the vividness of the landscape around Greenwood, Neb. Through the assertive strokes and lively color tones, we sense the day’s pleasantness, the stirring of the breeze, and the fried chicken and cole slaw in the picnic basket.

“When I was going through my files I found another view of Greenwood elevators–forgot about this one,” Cooper says of the work completed in 2012. “It’s 16×20 and long ago sold.”

The elevator on the right was built by Tillotson Construction Co., of Omaha, in 1951, and it’s unlikely that anyone on the crew imagined the edifice would one day be in a fine-art painting. 

Detail right side

Detail view featuring Tillotson’s 1951 elevator at Greenwood, Neb. and the storage annex.

The 1951 elevator followed the Churdan, Iowa, plan established in 1949. It had four tanks, or silos, of 14.5 feet in diameter rising 120 feet from the ground.

The smallish headhouse measured 17 feet wide, 34 feet long, and 22 feet high.

We have posted about the Greenwood elevator before; all the specs and photos can be found by using this link.

Cooper is proprietor of Cooper Studio & Gallery, at 1526 Silver St. in Ashland, Neb. Phone: 402.944.2022.

 

In another oil painting, Kim Cooper shares his subtle vision of Nebraskaland

October Nebraska 16x20, oil on canvas Sold to Don and Lois Fick, Wahoo, NE

Today is the second of three straight days featuring oil paintings by Kim David Cooper. Here he shares with us a 16 x 20-inch oil depicting an elevator from … he can’t say for sure.

“I don’t even remember where it was from–possibly around Mead, Nebraska,” Cooper commented. “Didn’t write it down, and I’m getting forgetful!” 

In an email he called the work “October, Nebraska.” It was sold to collectors in Wahoo, Neb. (home of a Tillotson elevator).

Often when we see photography or landscape paintings by Nebraska artists we’re stunned by their ability to discern the subtleties (although nothing about a grain elevator is subtle).

This fine landscape hows just how beautiful Nebraskaland can be.