May 27, 2022
Local News

Then & Now: Grain elevator in Frankfort

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Grain elevator systems evolved and became an important part of Chicago’s growth in the 19th century.

Soon, these grain elevators began to be constructed alongside the developing railroad systems. As the railroads expanded throughout the Midwest, farmers were able to get their crops from the prairies to the marketplace more quickly and efficiently.

These early elevators often were associated with the floor mills they served. The structures usually were timber-framed structures, as were the mills themselves. It was not until the early decades of the 20th century that concrete grail elevators and silos, usually constructed in banks of two or more, started to appear.

The first grain bought in the Frankfort area was by Norman A. Carpenter, who bought for J. L. Hurd & Company of Detroit.

Together, they built the first grain elevator in 1856 near the Michigan Central Railroad tracks (known as the Old Plank Road Trail today). Numerous times over the years, the wooden grain elevator caught fire, and in the 1940s, the entire structure was rebuilt using concrete. While the grain elevator operated until 1973, actual business began to diminish in the 1960s, as the farm trade brought by the railroads began to decrease. As part of a project to rejuvenate the downtown area, the old grain elevator was remodeled and converted into a specialty mall for shoppers.

Today, the grain elevator still stands 132 feet high and can be seen from miles around. The then photograph shows the area around the old granary and the Scale House. The now image shows a similar view today.