Old grain elevator in Ohio

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio
Date added: May 03, 2023 Categories: Ohio Grain Elevator
North elevation (1908)

The O. P. Chaney Grain Elevator is the last remnant of the once thriving grain business in Canal Winchester.

Winchester (now Canal Winchester) was founded in 1828 in response to construction of the Ohio & Erie Canal. It is situated in one of the most fertile townships of Franklin County. Expanded markets for the surrounding region's crops were provided for by the canal, and later (1869) the Hocking Valley Railroad. As a result, the processing and handling of grain was a major enterprise of Canal Winchester. This resulted in the construction of an array of grain warehouses, grain elevators and mills throughout the history of the village. The first grist mill in the township dated to 1806-7. The first grain warehouse was built in the town in 1833-4 which began a history of related activity continuing into the 1970's when major improvements were still being made to existing facilities. These facilities tended to be located on the canal at both sides of High Street or near the railroad tracks at High Street. The last vestige of Canal Winchester's grain related business, the Winchester Milling Company, closed down in 1978. (This and the Chaney elevator operated under the same ownership from 1935-1978) The original building of this complex was constructed in 1868 as the Winchester Mills. The entire complex was demolished in 1987.

The O. P. Chaney Grain Elevator is typical construction of a rural grain elevator, with significant details being its board and batten or vertical sheathing, "elevated" gable roof, braced frame construction, and sandstone foundation. The grain elevator machinery in excellent condition in the interior, including a corn cleaner and the elevator itself, manufactured by The Philip Smith Company of Sidney, Ohio.

O. P. Chaney was one of the three prominent grain merchants of Canal Winchester when he constructed this grain elevator in 1880. The others in business at this time were M. C. Whitehurst (M. C. Whitehurst & Co.), and C. B. & D. H. Cowan (Empire Mills). O. P. Chaney's initial involvement in the grain business began in 1851-2 when he and his father, John Chaney, Sr., built the Empire Mills west of town. (This complex burned in 1895, long after the Chaneys had sold it.) O. P. Chaney was the owner of several large grain warehouses located near the basin of the canal (East Waterloo Street) in 1878 when they all burned. Following this catastrophic fire which burned for ten days, O. P. Chaney constructed a large grain elevator on the south side of the railroad tracks. In 1880 this elevator burned down and Chaney immediately replaced it with the existing elevator. Chaney also had an elevator operation in Groveport, Ohio very similar in design and location (proximity to the depot) as the Canal Winchester one.

Operating under the name of "O. P. Chaney & Sons", the elevator in Canal Winchester continued in the Chaney family's operation until at least 1907. His sons involved in the business were A. A. Chaney, W. B. Chaney, and E. C. Chaney. O. P. Chaney, who died in 1906, was recognized for first developing the alternative of canvas sacks for grain sales, versus the wooden barrels. The date of this invention is unknown.

Subsequent owners of the elevator were D. F. Taylor (1915), Huston & Swope (1922-3), S. B. Swope, and the Winchester Milling Company (Howard Hockman, 1935-1978). The latter company also owned the mill and elevator to the north of the tracks and used this facility only for storage of grain and other related merchandise after their acquisition. All processing and sales occured at the other site. The building was placed out of service in 1978 when it sold to the Village of Canal Winchester and the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society. The Society is working toward its preservation.

Building Description

The O. P. Chaney Grain Elevator is on a .578 acre site situated to the south of the Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo Railroad. The railroad depot is located to the northeast of the grain elevator, and a relocated one-room schoolhouse sits to the southeast. High Street runs along the east side, West Oak Street along the south side and twentieth century industrial buildings stand to the far west. Since construction of the railroad in 1869, this area developed as an industrial area providing essential agricultural support services to this community. A railroad spur passes close by the north side and northeast corner of the elevator. This originally extended south along High Street to the canal area, but was discontinued beyond Oak Street by 1876 when John Kramer's 2nd Addition was platted. Later, an unloading ramp was built at the end of the siding. Another elevator/milling complex stood to the north of the tracks until it was demolished in 1987.

The O. P. Chaney Grain Elevator is comprised of two sections. The east section is the earliest and sits more at an angle to Oak Street than the rest of the complex. Its actual date of construction is unknown. A structure referred to as Louck's Mill sat adjacent to and east of O. P. Chaney's 1878 elevator, according to Bareis' history. When the 1878 elevator burned in 1880, Chaney acquired Loucks Mill and incorporated it into this 1880 elevator complex. Loucks Mill does not appear on the 1872 atlas map and no other information has been found on it. There is no evidence of milling activity in this section of the building today. It was this east section which housed Chaney's elevator.

The east section is 50' tall and 4 stories at the highest point, and 32' tall and 3 stories on the sides. It is braced frame construction (mostly oak) with mortise and tendoned joints and wood pegs. This 3 x 2 bay section is covered with board and batten siding and it sits on a coursed sandstone foundation with a large textured sandstone watertable. The elevated gable roof is covered with corrugated metal. The main entrance with a dumping bin beneath is on the south elevation. There are remnants of the cradle and pulleys which raised the truck beds for dumping. The existing one story vertical sided shed-roofed addition was constructed by Mr. Hockman in the 1970's, replacing an earlier one. He also enlarged the grain dump and dock area to accommodate larger vehicles. The concrete landing at the east end of the building was built by Mr. Swope for coal storage. A brick chimney was once located at the northwest corner of this section, but it is no longer extant.

The elevator machinery is extant on the interior of the east section. The elevator in the head house was manufactured by the Philip Smith Manufacturing Company of Sidney, Ohio. It has a wood case with a metal wheel for adjusting tension on the belt on the east side. The elevator leg has a canvas belt with metal buckets. There was once a sifter for small grain on the first floor to the west of the unloading dock at the south side. In the northeast corner are scales and an apparatus for loading out the grain from the bins in the elevator to the railroad cars. This has 50 bushel size weigh scales. The engine room is in the northwest corner of this section. The elevator was originally powered by steam, and sometime after the turn of the century a natural gas engine was installed. This engine, with huge flywheels and no self starter was removed by a collector c. 1964. (large opening was cut out of the north side when the engine was removed.) Assorted rigging, i.e. wood pulleys and canvas belts from the gas engine era are in storage in the elevator. After 1935, Mr. Hockman installed an electric "direct connect system" to the elevator, which is still located in the head house. The grain bin area is in the second and third levels of this section. The bins are partitioned off, and they are flat bottomed, not hoppered. There are large deep bins on the north side and more shallow bins on the south side. Normally the best grain would have been stored in the deep bins.

Large metal tanks of water still exist in the upper stories which were required for fire purposes. There is also an original corn cleaner (to remove coarse debris) in its original location on the third story. The brackets are extant which held the trough which lead the debris to a dump at the west end. Wooden slides are placed along the path of the auger which moved the grain so that is could be directed into the proper bins.

In addition to incorporating the east building, Chaney added a large three story wing to the west which was more than double the length of the east building and which ran in a line parallel with Oak Street. This was a storage facility, although not of crib construction. The west section is 45' tall at the third (top) story. This section is covered with vertical sheathing. Like the east section, this one also sits on a stone foundation and its elevated gable roof is covered with corrugated metal. There is a track with a drag chain which runs underneath the middle of the floor lengthwise which transported the whole corn in storage, once dried out, to a corn sheller in the east end of the building (no longer existing). With the advent of combines etc., the need for space to dry corn was eliminated and this facility was used for storage of farm related supplies such as fencing (post 1935). New doorways were cut into the north elevation and the bank was cut down to facilitate unloading trucks after 1935. In the early twentieth century (c. 1920 ), a hammer mill was installed by S. B. Swope to process custom feed. This machinery, which included the mill and a mixer (2nd floor) was disposed of c. 1973, but it was originally located along the south side of the west end of this section. The grain dump for this mill is extant. By 1895, a one story frame addition had been added near the west end of this west section along the south side, and two one story additions ran perpendicular to the other addition, at its east end. The northernmost of these two additions was used as an office. It is a brick structure. A frame addition south of the brick office which was used for storage (fertilizer, salt etc.) was demolished in 1974.

There was also formerly a third section attached to the west end. The 1322 map indicates this western portion of the storage facility was changed to an 18' tall, 2 story frame, gable roofed facility that was "paper lined". It was used for hay storage. Formerly there was Simply an extension of the current west section. The adaptation gave the building three distinct sections. A firewall was built between the west end and middle sections in 1935. The section west of the fire wall burned in 1983, giving the elevator its current appearance.

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio North elevation (1908)
North elevation (1908)

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio East & North elevation (1987)
East & North elevation (1987)

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio South elevation (1987)
South elevation (1987)

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio South elevation (1987)
South elevation (1987)

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio East section, South elevation (1987)
East section, South elevation (1987)

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio West section, South elevation (1987)
West section, South elevation (1987)

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio Brick office addition (1987)
Brick office addition (1987)

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio North elevation (1987)
North elevation (1987)

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio Foundation & siding detail (1987)
Foundation & siding detail (1987)

O.P. Chaney Grain Elevator, Canal Winchester Ohio Interior - West section, drag chain location (1987)
Interior - West section, drag chain location (1987)