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Peavey-Haglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator

Peavey-Haglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator, ca. 1908Grain elevators were the first skyscrapers in Minnesota. The earliest elevators, built of wood, towered over many rural communities. Terminal elevators, built primarily in urban areas beginning in the first decades of the 20th century, used a new reinforced concrete construction technique developed in Minnesota. The Peavey-Haglin experimental grain elevator was the first circular concrete elevator in the nation and, possibly, the world.

The elevator, located at Minnesota Highways 7 and 100 in St. Louis Park, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Known as the Peavey-Haglin experimental concrete grain elevator, it bears the names of the two leaders in their fields who created it. Frank H. Peavey (1850-1901), owner of a major grain company, and Charles H. Haglin (1849-1921), prominent contractor and builder of such landmark stone structures as the Globe Building and the Minneapolis City Hall and Court House of that era, joined forces in this demonstration project. Their aim was to test the feasibility and limits of a concrete structure for storage of grain.

Erected in two stages and built in 1899-1900, Peavey and Haglin's elevator was constructed using round wood forms braced with steel hoops. As the poured concrete hardened, the forms were moved up section by section. Unsure how much pressure the structure could withstand, engineers ordered the elevator capped at only 68 feet. After a successful experiment filling and emptying the elevator, it was completed the following year, rising to its present height of 125 feet. Built solely to prove the theory that concrete could be used in elevator construction, the Peavey-Haglin elevator never again held grain. It served, instead, as a prototype for concrete terminal elevators throughout the nation. French architect LeCorbusier praised it as "the magnificent First Fruits of the new age."

GET STARTED WITH SECONDARY SOURCES:

  • "Experiment in Concrete: A Pioneer Venture in Grain Storage," by Ruth J. Heffelfinger.
    In Minnesota History, vol. 37, no. 1 (Mar. 1960): pp.14-18.
    MHS call number: Reading Room F601.5.M66 v. 37:1, or view an electronic version of the article (PDF).
  • "Modern Elevator Construction," by E.S. Rollins.
    In Northwestern Miller, vol. 50, no. 14 (Oct. 3, 1900): pp. 637, 657.
    MHS call number: FOLIO HD9056 .N8.

PRIMARY RESOURCES:

  • Frank Totten Heffelfinger Diary.
    Heffelfinger's diary (Feb. 1-Apr. 3, 1900) documents his tour of grain storage facilities in Europe, taken with Charles F. Haglin, to determine whether concrete grain elevators existed in Europe. Heffelfinger was Frank Peavey's son-in-law and Peavey also wanted Heffelfinger to ascertain if it would be possible to build and operate a line of elevators in Russia.
    MHS call number: A/-H461f; see the green Manuscripts Notebooks for more details
    (there is only 1 volume).
  • Newspapers and periodicals that may be useful for this topic:
    • Minneapolis Journal (there is an article in the October 3, 1900, issue)
    • Minneapolis Star
    • Minneapolis Tribune
  • Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
  • Check out the entry for the Peavey-Haglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator in the Minnesota National Register Property database.
  • Check the library catalog for other materials.