Great Northern Elevator


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January 9, 2022. Photo by Frits Abell

December 11,2021 wind damage. Photo by Chris Hawley

Similar collapse in 1907, other end of the building
Great Northern Grain Elevator

1981, click for large image
Photo: Wikimedia, HAER

250 Ganson Street Buffalo, NY 14203


Physical Description

  • Unusual for Buffalo grain elevators, the Great Northern Elevator has steel bins enclosed in brick curtain walls. Most Buffalo elevator bins are made of slip-formed concrete, with no exterior cladding.
  • Capacity 2,500,000 bushels.
  • Main bins: 38 feet diameter cylinders, 70 feet high, 80,000 bushels each in three non-interlocking rows of ten. Also a number of smaller interspace and outerspace bins (HAER).
  • Full cupola above the bins, four stories high, to a total height of 181 feet, extending the length of building. Supported by extensions to the basement columns which pass between the bins; structural steel clad in corrugated iron (HAER).
  • The brick walls on the outside of the building are curtain walls, do not support the bin or cupola structure and are intended as a weather shield. From the HAER report: "The brick curtain walling was of pier and panel form. The piers were 4' wide, and the panels 15'-7-1/2" wide. The first 12' of wall was 25-1/2" thick, the next 12* to 28' of wall was 21-1/2" thick, and above this point the wall was made up of 21" thick, 4' wide piers and 17" thick, 15'-7-l/2" wide panels (HAER).
  • The HAER report goes into great detail in this document, pages 3 to 8.
  • Article by Paul McDonnell, with construction details and models: "There Is No Emergency".

Current Condition

  • Not currently in use. Last used for grain storage in 1980.


  • Built 1897 by James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway.
  • The first electrically powered grain elevator, along with the Electric Elevator, in the same year.
  • The elevator was built in seven months. Building permits were granted in February 1897, grain was transshipped in September 1897. The design was still being worked on in July, two or three months prior to completion.
  • A similar collapse happened to the south wall in 1907, see photo at right.
  • Declared a local landmark on April 10, 1990.
  • Not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but eligible for a listing.
  • Local designation offers some protection against demolition, but the Preservation Board's decision can be overridden by an emergency demolition order from the Commissioner of Permits and Inspections, the Fire Commissioner or a judge.
  • Federal designation offers no protection against demolition, but makes tax credits available which may be helpful in financing a repair or restoration project.

Recent Events and Actions Taken

  • December 11, 2021 - a large part of the north facade has fallen down in a windstorm.
  • December 13, 2021 - Congressman Brian Higgins (NY 26) has written to ADM's CEO, strongly urging repair and restoration. "We called on the company to take swift action to fix the damage. Additionally, we recommended that ADM seeks to designate the structure on the National Register of Historic Places. In doing so, this community landmark would qualify for federal & state historic tax credit programs which would provide aid for the restoration process." Letter here.
  • December 15, 2021 - ADM submits a request for permission to do an emergency demolition (WIVB-TV story here).
  • December 16, 2021 - the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has written a letter to Mayor Brown, copying other elected officials, urging patience and restraint in the matter of demolishing the elevator. Letter images here and here.
  • December 16, 2021 - members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers Local 36G are announcing that they are interested in determining the feasibility of purchasing the endangered Great Northern Grain Elevator and re-purposing it as a Union Hall to serve their members as well as a public museum space. Press release here.
  • December 17, 2021 - Buffalo News: Mayor Byron Brown's administration has ordered an emergency demolition of the Great Northern grain elevator. The city notified the grain elevator's owner, Archer Daniels Midland, of the decision hours after a union local asked the city to delay making a decision so it could explore buying and repairing the property. The decision comes despite an outcry from preservationists and the urging by Rep. Brian Higgins for the city to force ADM to repair the structure.
  • December 19, 2021 - Developer Doug Jemal has said he wants to buy the building and reuse/restore it.
  • December 19. 2021 - A judge has issued a restraining order halting demolition until a court hearing on December 22, 2021.
  • January 5, 2022 - the judge has vacated the restraining order, allowing demolition to proceed.
  • 2022-01-10 - Four members of the Common Council (Golombek, Scanlon, Rivera and Nowakowski) have created a resolution, to be voted on by the entire Council, calling for ADM to postpone the demolition. Link to resolution here.
  • September 15, 2022 - Preservation Buffalo Niagara writes ADM President/CEO Juan Luciano urging a stay on demolition and offering a long-term lease partnership in which PBN would be a steward of the building.
  • September 16, 2022 - Demolition begins on north wall and bins.

Other Pertinent Facts

  • Located adjacent to ADM's flour mill, which uses the Standard Elevator for grain storage.
  • Assessed value of the land and buildings as of 2021 is $2,850,000.
  • Last sale price, in 1993, was $11,574,000.
  • Property taxes paid in 2021: County $14,365.62, City $24,528.67, total $38,894.29.


Newest Pages

Added 2013-01-08 • Last changed 2024-01-26