The 1897 Great Northern Elevator at 250 Ganson Street is an outstanding example of an intermediate steel grain elevator. It is the only local example and the sole surviving "brick box" working house elevator in North America. It was designed by engineer Max Toltz, who was the bridge engineer of the Great Northern Railway Line. The plant holds an important place in Buffalo's history as an example of the city's historic role as a grain capital and as a center of transportation and commerce.
The Great Northern was one of the largest in the country when first built, with a storage capacity of approximately 2,500,000 bushels. The elevator mechanism, first invented in Buffalo in 1842 by Joseph Dart, solved the problem of how to mechanically raise the grain from the boats to storage.
Max Toltz's design of steel enclosed in brick was a thermally efficient solution to the problems of spoilage and combustibility. The Great Northern Elevator is one of the earliest surviving elevators in the Buffalo River District and is a pivotal example illustrating the technological shift from timber to steel to the final industry standard, concrete.
Individually, the Great Northern Elevator is worthy of landmark status. Within its riverfront setting, the elevators of the elevator district form an outstanding grouping of historic and architectural significance and mark Buffalo as the "elevator capital" of America. The Great Northern Elevator is a landmark in the history of the grain elevator, itself a Buffalo invention, a monument to the rise of modern industrial architecture in the United States and to an era when Buffalo was a center in a great regional network of commerce and transportation that reached from Chicago to New York.
The Great Northern Elevator was built in 1897 for the Great Northern Railway Line and designed by Max Toltz, American Society of Civil Engineers, and Bridge Engineer of the Great Northern Railway.
·Toltz designed the general and detail plans of the steel construction and also acted in the capacity of consulting engineer during construction.
·Newcomb Carleton, of Buffalo, as consulting electrical engineer, designed the electrical plant,
·which was installed under the direction of Albert Vickers, electrical engineer.
·The elevator machinery was designed by D.A. Robinson of Chicago, Illinois who supervised construction.
·The contractors for the main body of the steel work were the Riter-Conley Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
·The Penn Bridge Company of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, furnished the material for and erected the marine towers.
The structure was built as an all steel elevator "of the future" and had at the time an unusually great storage capacity of 2,525,890 bushels.
The Great Northern elevator consists of a house, cupola, and transferring apparatus, the principal elements of a grain elevator complex. This building, owned by ADM, is the subject of demolition plans (2007)