Will the 1949 Tillotson elevator in Paullina, Iowa, please stand up?


Story and photos by Kristen Cart

We know that the Tillotson Construction Company of Omaha built an elevator in Paullina, Iowa, but we are not certain which one. We have only newspaper accounts to guide us. The company records list all of their concrete construction projects until 1956 (albeit missing one page), but omit Paullina. A visit to the location provided no clue.

Perhaps the elevator they built was not concrete? There is a precedent in Hawarden, Iowa, where the company built a wooden elevator in the tradition of Charles Tillotson, the patriarch of the family elevator business. But that elevator went up in 1940. Paulina was built in 1949, well after the company had changed its construction method to slip-formed concrete. On review, indeed, we found that the newspaper account said the Tillotson elevator was to be concrete.

My family rolled through Paullina on a Sunday when the co-op was closed. Grain trucks were parked, and the facility was quiet except for the drone of circulation fans. We found no identifying manhole covers, so I had to content myself with photos. I took at least one image of each elevator on the site. None of the elevators followed the familiar Tillotson style, which may not have been fully developed by 1949 in any case.

Let the reader be the judge from the photos presented here.

These appear to be more modern construction than seen in 1949.

These appear to be more modern than elevators built in 1949.

The two older elevators at Paullina are concrete, but they do not seem to follow the protocol of a continuous pour. The newer-looking elevators deserve a closer look, in spite of their unfamiliar lines–particularly the smaller one on the left. Tillotson Construction set a precedent in 1947, when they built a rectilinear-styled elevator at Minneapolis, Kan.

Perhaps the old Tillotson elevator outlived its usefulness and no longer stands? We don’t know.

Reader input is welcome!


This elevator resembles some of Tillotson's early efforts, and seems to be a good candidate

This elevator resembles some of Tillotson’s early efforts and seems to be a good candidate

Tillotson gets 50,000-bushel Paullina elevator under way

Paullina elevator complex, Dec. 9, 2009, by Jim Hamann

PAULLINA (IOWA)–A new concrete elevator is under construction to replace the Paullina Grain Co. elevator destroyed by fire. The new one will be 103 feet high, containing 18 bins. All new machinery, including a 50-ton scale, will be installed. Capacity will be 50,000 bushels.

Farmers’ Elevator Guide, June 1949

Men wanted in Paullina, Iowa, by Tillotson Construction in 1949

Back Alley, Paullina, Iowa, by Jim Hamann

MEN WANTED for construction work on Concrete Grain Elevator, 90¢ per hour, 10 hours a day, 6 and 7 days a week. Time and ½ over 40 hours.

Tillotson Const Co. at Paullina, Ia.

The Alton, Iowa Democrat, Thursday, May 5, 1949

Editor’s note: In 2008, an explosion and fire injured a customer at the new elevator in Alton.

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John Hassman’s recollections of Tillotson Construction

Back Alley, Paullina, Iowa, by Jim Hamann on January 21, 2010

I worked for [Reginald] (my uncle) from Sept 1948 to Jan 1951. My first job was Paullina, Iowa, where I did the timekeeping and a lot of other odd jobs needed at the time. After that I moved to Montevideo, Minn., doing the same work thru Nov 1949. I had an appendix removed in Nov and went to work in the Omaha office in December 1949. Your Dad paid for flying lessons which I used flying the different construction jobs in Nebraska, Kansas and Okla. I flew the Stinson Voyager and the Station Wagon. My dad Ralph went to work as a salesman in 1947 and sold many of the elevators sold during that [period] until 1952. I also was the pilot that flew for my dad to several of his jobs. While in the office I [was] trained by the office engineer to design buildings and was the major designer with R.O. to build his new home in Florence, Neb. Many mornings he would arrive with new ideas of what he wanted changed in the house, and we would start all over. Starting in Nov. 1950 we began construction on the new house. The foremen were kept busy in the winter doing that work. All using a concrete house with the ideas we used in Elevator Const. That was the coldest, windiest place to work in December. I left to go the the Air Force because I was about to be drafted in the middle of the Korean War. That was the end. The company closed before I returned. It was an exciting learning business that helped me for the rest of my working days as I have always been involved in some form of construction.

John Hassman

April 24, 2009