Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grain Elevators - As They Were (Part One)

Looking North on Buffalo River From Entrance to Clark & Skinner Canal 
Near Michigan Ave.
Buffalo Morning Express May 14, 1899
    Drawing near Buffalo upon the deck of a lake steamer, or looking across the broad bay toward the city from the south shore, you see a low strand, from which spring a great row of gigantic buildings which loom up out of all proportion to the narrow base upon which they stand.  In the evening sunlight which falls upon their faces, they are a reddish brown, the smokey air of Buffalo softens their outlines, and their few small windows twinkle. They look fantastic and unreal! It appears hardly credible that such mighty masses, if substantial fabrics, could be supported upon such a shallow crust of earth.  They seem like monstrous mushroom growths, sprung in a moment from the waters edge, and ready as suddenly again to disappear.
Wilkeson & C.J. Wells Elevators at Foot of 
Washington & Indiana Sts. Elevator on left is the
 Lyons on Peck Slip
   These giant structures are the elevators of Buffalo.  As the boat passes up the Buffalo River on its way to the wharf, you get a closer view of them.  There are few places on earth where you can find a sight to equal it.  Huddling on the sides of the river, and on the slips and canals off to the side, are the elevators.  The banks of the stream are low and alluvial and are protected, strengthened by rows of piling. From these timbers spring abruptly the immense structures, towering up 100 or 150 feet-great, uncouth, brown or grey masses, bordering and over hanging the stream like castles!  Each one stands by itself; if they were built continuously, to pass along them would be like threading a canyon of a Western river.  Their most striking characteristic is their soaring height. Broad as they are upon the earth, it is the length of their perpendicular lines that most impresses the eye.  There is nothing else with which the elevators can be compared, because there is nothing else exactly like them.    
   Here is a mighty aggregation of central body and buttresses. Adjoining it is a single clear cut tower bulging out in middle like a morel. In all or nearly all, an excrescence juts over the water, and from this hangs the great bill or "leg", which the elevator, like a mosquito, plunges into the vessels to suck up their grain.  Most of the elevators bear at their highest peak, a big water tank, for fire is their deadliest enemy.  The river winds this way and that, but the elevators follow it wherever it goes.  Between them, up and down, passes a continual procession of tugs, passenger steamers, propellers, barges and steam launches, and the air resounds day and night, with the chug of the steam engines, the sharp squeal of pilots' signals and the hoarse bellow of propeller whistles.
Unloading at the Eastern Elevator,  Buffalo NY
End of Part One 

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