A visit to Omaha’s Vinton Street elevator reveals recent activity by muralists

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Our friend Rose Ann Fennessy lives near the Vinton Street elevator in South Omaha. On a recent spring day she took a stroll and recorded these views.

Above we see the elevator and storage annex in a long gaze from the Field Club trail. The Field Club, which bills itself as the oldest private club west of the Mississippi River, is about a mile away from the elevator.

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Rose Ann also discovered the silos of the annex are being used by muralists. She calls it “the current artwork.” Since the Stored Potential banners came down in July of 2014, the silos have become more available to artists.

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“I like this one,” Rose Ann says.

It’s good indeed. In a way, these murals are like stained glass but at the the wrong end of the towers.

We don’t mind the silos of the annex being painted, but we hope the artists leave the elevator’s main house alone.

 

 

 

A through-the-windshield glimpse of Omaha’s Vinton Street elevator

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Kate Oshima, a granddaughter of Reginald Tillotson, provides this through-the-windshield view of the Vinton Street elevator in Omaha.

We see the unique, tall headhouse and the runs atop the main house and extending to the annexes. We also see that the elevator needs some TLC.

Omahans call I-80 “the Interstate.” Kate says, “It is towering over the Interstate.”

Tillotson Construction employees share playful moments outside the company’s Omaha office

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Story by Tim Tillotson, photos from the Virginia Slusher archive

Editor’s note: The story is from a May 14 phone interview.

On the top pic, second from left, Ted Morris? It don’t look like him at all to me. Wayne Skinner, I believe that’s his Olds they’re leaning against.

In the background is Fairmont Ice Cream. They brought refrigerated rail cars in there. One of them, Dad rammed the ass-end of his ’56 imperial into, backing out of the front of the office and I don’t know where he was going in such a hurry. Second day he had it. A four-door Southhampton, pink and white, Mother drove it most of the time. The air conditioning system—they were coming into the picture then—the condenser unit was in the front of the trunk in a big metal box.

When he slammed into the tongue of that rail car, you know how high those tongues stick out, it got into the trunk and the back window. He had them working 24 hours a day to fix that thing, the trunk, back window, and roof.

After he had it fixed, you could always hear some broken glass shifting around in the box of that unit.

Wayne was the so-called engineer, he set over there in that drafting room in the other side of the office, did all the structural calculations.

It was a ’49 or ’50 Olds. Wayne is in the middle pic with Bob Rodgers. He was like the bookkeeper.

Top and bottom picture? There’s Virginia (second from right) and I don’t know who that woman is.

Johnny (Hassman) had to be office help. He didn’t really have anything to do with the drawings or plans. I don’t even remember that he even worked on a job. And I don’t remember why he was there. He got his college work done, I think, in Missoula.

Uncle Ralph, Johnny’s dad, helped later in sales. I remember Ralph talking about him almost living in the car, and he ate a lot of pork and beans out of the can to pay for his way through college. I can’t remember his academic agenda.

Ted was the pilot. He worked int the office with Wayne, doing the drawing and getting the specs together. He flew Dad when Dad would go out to the jobs. Ted used to take me flying out to the job. He was a fun guy, good-natured. He tried going into business himself after Dad passed.

Virginia Slusher remembers her years as Tillotson Contruction’s office girl

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Story by Virginia Slusher, photos from her collection

Editor’s note: Virginia Slusher, who lives near Kansas City, contacted us to share these recollections and photos. We have previously written about The Office, part of the old Anheuser-Bush brewery on Jones Street, which served as Tillotson Construction’s headquarters in the 1950s. 

Beginning in the fall of 1951, I worked for Mike (Reginald) and Mary Tillotson for seven years. I was the “office girl”–some bookkeeping, receptionist, et cetera.

I went to Commercial Extension School of Commerce, and Johnny Hassman was my date for our graduation party. He was in the office quite often. I think Johnny helped with sales. IMG_1390

One morning I arrived first, and the safe was hanging open. Because of the burglary, I immediately ran down to the gas station on the corner. The thief took the petty cash they kept in the safe. I don’t think he bothered anything else. The police came to investigate.

I loved working there; they were so good to me.

The three guys and I would sit up on the balcony and play cards sometimes when Mary was gone. It was a raised area where Wayne and Ted, the two engineers, sat. Bob the bookkeeper sat just below.

I loved the guys. They took me out for my first legal drink when I turned 21 years old. They teased me unmercifully but were so good to me.

I remember typing about 2000 W-4s at the end of the year. Men would work for one or two days and quit. I also sent all the “give us your business” cards to the small towns in multiple states. Virginia Slusher 01

The other woman–I can’t remember her name–was working there when I started.

They had a huge NCR bookkeeping machine that she taught me how to operate. Shortly after I started there, the company sold it to, I think, China.

Mary was different to say the least. She had an ugly Boxer that came to work with her sometimes. He would slobber on me; therefore, I did not like him!

She used to tape a St. Christopher medal on her desk. We joked that we wondered if the desk would take her somewhere.

Johnny Hassman and Virginia Slusher celebrate her business school graduation. Photo from the Virginia Slusher archive.

Johnny Hassman and Virginia Slusher celebrate her business school graduation.

She was very good to me, gave me nice bonuses at the end of the year, not quite as big as the three guys. But very good for the ’50s. I received $1000 to $15oo. The men usually around $10,000. Very large amount for the times.

Mike (Reginald) was funny, not in the office much. I had to write the checks to pay the family bills.

I was still Virginia Engel but married William Slusher while working there, 60 years now, and they were very nice to us.

When the company closed, Mary found a new job for me at Power District credit union.

The Vinton Street elevator was Tillotson Construction’s 1950 hometown showcase

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Story by Ronald Ahrens 

The Vinton Street elevator in Omaha was a significant job for Tillotson Construction Company, being a technical challenge to the nine-year-old outfit and representing a major emphasis in its subsequent marketing effort.

Lucky for us, much attention was paid to taking good photos of the elevator, including some early color images that include views of the construction process. These photos were in the hands of Uncle Tim Tillotson, who passed them to us for scanning. The color ones came from a viewer that was presumably shown to prospective clients.

With its headhouse accommodating three legs to lift the grain, it was tall. Exactly how tall isn’t recorded, but it probably came within sniffing distance of 200 feet. Only a few of the city’s downtown office towers surpassed its height, although they weren’t necessarily better-looking.

This terminal elevator had capacity of 382,880 bushels, and the legs handled distribution of the grain inside the main house.

Scan 5It also was a showcase that family and friends could see for themselves. Until then, Tillotson Construction had been building elevators in Texas and Oklahoma as well as some less far-flung places.

The elevator was completed in 1950 on a South Omaha greenfield site at 34th and Vinton Streets. The company’s office at 12th and Jones was only three miles away.

Another reason for its significance is that Reginald and Margaret Tillotson’s oldest son Charles went to work as an apprentice carpenter and hod carrier on the job. He helped to build several other elevators over the next few years.

With the Tillotson construction record now in hand, we present the following technical specifications without yet having achieved a full understanding of all the abbreviations and lingo.

General specifications

Total capacity: 382,880 bushels

Capacity: 38,878 bushels per foot

Reinforced concrete: 4776 cubic yards

Plain concrete (hoppers): 35.3 cubic yards

Reinforcing steel (includes jack rods): 286.5 tons

Average steel per cubic yard of reinforced concrete: 120 lb

Construction of the hoist very early in the process of building the Vinton Street elevator. Note the Georgia buggies near the formwork.

Construction of the hoist very early in the process of building the Vinton Street elevator. Note the Georgia buggies near the formwork.

Steel and Concrete

Below main slab: 20,932 lb/223 c.y.

Main slab: 66,579 lb/618 c.y.

Drawform walls: 233,927 lb/2100 c.y.

Driveway and work floor: no figure for steel/17 c.y.

Deep bin bottoms (including columns): no figure for steel/155 c.y.

O.H. bin bottoms: no figure for steel/40 c.y.

Bin root: no figure given for steel/90 c.y.

Scale floor (or garner, complete): no figure for steel/17 c.y.

Cupola (headhouse) walls: no figures

Distributor floor (cleaner floor): no figure for steel/8 c.y.

Cupola roof (gallery): no figure for steel/49 c.y.

Miscellaneous (headhouse): no figure for steel/640 c.y.

Attached driveway: driveway 416 c.y., track shed 403 c.y.

Construction Details

Main slab dimensions: 58 x 119.5 feet

Main slab area (outside on ground): 6690 sq ft

Weight reinforced (total) concrete  at 4000 lb per c.y., plus steel: 9838 tons

Weight plain concrete (hoppers, 4000 lb per c.y.): 70.6 tons

Weight hopper fill sand at 3000 lb per c.y.: 439.8 tons

Weight of grain at 60 lb per bushel: 11,490 tons

Weight of structural steel and machinery: 100 tons

Gross weight loaded: 21,938 tons

This extreme view shows the elevator before painting. The individual pours can be seen in the drawform walls of the bins. Note the man leaning out of the window opening on the left.

This extreme view shows the elevator before painting. The individual pours can be seen in the drawform walls of the bins. Click on the photo to enlarge the image, and you’ll note the man leaning out of the window opening on the left.

Bearing pressure: 3.28 tons per sq ft

Main slab thickness: 30 in

Main slab steel: 1 in □ at 7 in o.c.

Tank steel at bottom (round tanks): ⅝ in ⌀ at 8 in o.c.

Lineal feet of drawform walls: 975 ft

Height of drawform walls: 120 ft

Pit depth below main slab: 20 ft, 9 in

Cupola (headhouse) dimensions outside (length x width x height): 24 ft x 52 ft x no figure recorded

Machinery Details

Boot pulley: 72 in x 28 in x 3 7/16 in

Head pulley: 72 in x 28 in x 5 15/16 in

RPM head pulley 39 rpm

Belt: leg 26 in x 8-ply, conx 36 in x 4 ply

Cups: 21 x 7 in cal. at 9 in o.c. stag.

Head drive: Link belt, 100 hp

Theoretical leg capacity (Cub manufacturer rating): 17,400 bushels per hour

Actual leg capacity (80 percent of theoretical): 13,900 bushels per hour

HP required for leg (based on above actual plus 15 percent for motor): 89.8 hp

My grandfather used one of the color images from Vinton Street on its business card.

My grandfather used one of the color images from Vinton Street on its business card.

Man lift: 2 – 1.5 hp

Load out scale: Two 2500-bushel hop.

Load out spout: 15-inch diameter

Truck lift: Ehr. semi fans w. col.

Dust collector system: on legs

Cupola spouting: Trolly spouts

Driveway doors: Johnson O.H. rolling

Conveyor: Two 36-in belts and two 30-in belts

 

Also Built

Track shed

Truck shed

Office

Truck scale

Tillotson Construction’s postwar business card, in full color, is a story in itself

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By Ronald Ahrens

Reginald Tillotson’s business card from the years after World War Two demands some interpretation.

The splashy color side—perhaps a bit of an extravagance, although surely effective when handed to a co-op manager in a remote district—presents the image of what we’re sure is the Vinton Street elevator. Completed in 1947, this South Omaha elevator with its unusual, towering headhouse, would be a showcase for any builder.

On the back, above the rule, the range of Tillotson Construction’s services is spelled out. We don’t yet know much about the mills and warehouses but hope some information will turn up.

Below the rule, we find the six-character telephone number from the alphanumeric dialing days. Local exchanges were assigned prefix names from Bell Telephone’s mostly generic list. Besides Atlantic, Omaha exchanges were named Jackson, Prospect, Regent, and so on.

Seven-digit numbers replaced Omaha’s alphanumeric plan in 1960. The Atlantic exchange received the numerical prefix of 341.

Numerical postal zones, introduced during World War Two, were replaced when the national zip code system was introduced in 1963.

Reginald Oscar Tillotson was widely known as Mike. It could have been that Reginald was too exotic for the time and place, so he picked the nickname for himself.