Grain elevators are storage areas that are used to house grain and prepare it for eventual shipment. An elevator may be a single building or an interconnected series of buildings, depending on the size of the operation. Generally, the design allows for the easy storage and retrieval of grain while providing a stable environment that helps to delay decomposition.
One of the first designs for a grain elevator appeared in the early 1840s in the United States. Joseph Dart, who was also the creator of the marine leg, designed storage buildings that could be easily located near shipping ports. The design allowed for the marine leg, which is essentially a large scoop, to easily extract grain from ships and other carriage devices and place it into the storage building.
While the first examples were simple wooden buildings, brick and masonry quickly became the materials of choice for construction. The spouts and conveying ductwork that allow for grain to be easy extracted are often made with steel. Using the natural flow of gravity, the spouts can be opened and grain forced out of the elevator into bins or trucks for easy transportation.
While the grain elevator was first used in New York State, the concept quickly caught on in other parts of the country. By the latter part of the 19th century, the structure was a common sight in the Midwest, often used for the storage of corn and wheat. The Southwest and Southern United States also make use of these buildings to store various types of grains. Some modern examples are simple, one building operations that may serve the farmers who form a local cooperative. Others involve multiple buildings and include a sophisticated series of ducts to connect the units.
Often, a grain elevator is strategically placed in a location where it's relatively easy to transport grain to and from the facility. The elevator may be found near railroads, riverbanks, or a section of flatland that is located within easy distance of fields used to grow various grains.