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Iowa Couple Saves 1881 Grain Elevator
It’s all about saving a landmark elevator, says Bob Nelson about the project he and his wife, Janet, embarked on nearly three years ago. When they purchased their Ross, Iowa, property, the 1881 grain elevator on adjacent land was deteriorating.

    “We bought it for the sole reason of keeping someone from tearing it down. It’s a landmark,” says Bob. “It was in really deplorable condition, but I knew that it was unique.”

    The task of restoring the 3 buildings – elevator, annex, and scale house – was daunting. They had been inhabited by wildlife and were full of debris, including old corn and rotting wood.

    “The roofs had leaked for many years and doors and windows were missing. It had rotted sills and floors and some of the walls were rotting. There was poor drainage,” Nelson says.

    The Nelsons invested their own money, applied for and received a $25,000 matching grant from the Iowa Barn Foundation, and received the use of equipment and labor support from local contractors. Contractor Bryan Olson and his brother Jake, and Larry Graves did the bulk of the restoration work.

    The elevator’s foundation had deteriorated, so a house moving company lifted the 157,450 lb. building high enough to rest temporarily on steel beams so they could tear out the old foundation, pour new footers and restack the limestone base.

    Boards from local barns that had been taken down were used to replace rotted wood to maintain the look of the Douglas fir used to build the elevator.

    To make use of the annex, the carpenters cut in a door, and Janet powerwashed the wood to clean and bring it back to life.

    Nelson notes that the construction of elevators – 2 by 8’s, 2 by 6’s and 2 by 4’s – makes the elevator extremely sturdy. During the renovation, he found one board that had the initials of the builder, Charles Stuart and his son, and the year 1881 carved into it.

    Preserving the board and the elevator is an important part of Iowa history, Nelson says. The work has attracted neighbors, who stop by to tell stories about threshing days and going to the elevator to have grain ground.

    While Nelson admits there were discouraging times during the restoration, the couple is pleased with the work that has been done on the elevator and annex. The brick scale house is next. It needs to be done soon before it crumbles completely, Nelson says.

    There are no official plans for how to use it in the future other than posting a sign and providing written information about its history. But the Nelsons and the 27 inhabitants of Ross, Iowa, are proud to have one of the few remaining historical elevators in the state standing in their back yard.

    To follow the progress of the project on Facebook, search for: Save Ross Elevator.

    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ross Elevator, c/o Bob Nelson, 5950 Main Street, Audubon, Iowa 50025 (ph 712 304-5809; Save.Ross.Elevator@gmail.com).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #1