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Tag Archives: Grain Elevators

Freeman, Spokane County, September 2012

When I moved to Spokane in 2012, I realized almost immediately that I was living on the edge of wheat country, and there were grain elevators I could photograph.  I began almost immediately—I have a handful of photographs I made while waiting for my credit check to run on my first apartment in Spokane on my first day living here.

 

Near Lind, Adams County, July 2018

 

In 2017, I arranged to show photographs at the Whitman County Library in Colfax, and decided that I was going to try to photograph every public grain elevator I could find in Whitman county.  At that point, I realized that the 8×10 view camera I was using was just too slow for the job—and a friend had passed on to me a tilt shift lens that I adapted to fit the front of my Sony digital camera—so I had the ability to use the digital camera with the perspective corrections of a view camera.  By the end of August, when the show went up, I had photographed 62 sites in Whitman County.

 

Alston, Douglas County, March 2019

 

Once I was “done” with Whitman County, I started working documenting places closer to home, in Spokane county—then west to Lincoln and Adams Counties in the summer of 2018.  I discovered that many of the elevators in those counties were part of the new Highline Grain Growers association, and I decided to try to photograph all of them—a total of 52 sites, including some in Douglas, Grant, Stevens, Okanogan, and Chelan Counties.

 

Bruce, Adams County, March 2019

From there, I decided to complete my survey of every grain elevator I could find in the Washington State, or at least those east of the Cascades.  I found a list “Public Grain Warehouses and Grain Dealers” published by the State of Washington, but realized that this list is incomplete—several large co-ops are not listed in this document, and the list also does not include abandoned elevators.

 

Fairfield, Spokane County, March 31, 2017

I could cover a lot of the territory on day trips from Spokane, but this summer I did two overnight trips to get some of the more distant elevators, including one trip to Walla Walla County, and a second trip to the Yakima Valley.  Those trips required a bit of planning—mapping out possible sites with the lists I had on hand, and then trying to find those elevators on Google Earth.

 

North Prosser, Benton County, August 2019

 

I’ve reached a point where I’ve located and photographed most of the elevators I’ve identified.  Out of 317 sites identified, I’m missing photographs of about a dozen.  I think I’m done looking for new elevators in Washington State.

I’m sure the project isn’t done, though. I’ve been documenting the destruction of some of the abandoned elevators, and I’m sure I’ll stumble across a few new ones.  But the active search is completed.

 

Basin City, Franklin County, August 2019

I’m kind of sorry I’m done with the project—I think my favorite part of the project was driving down country roads I’d have no other reason to travel on.  And finding an abandoned elevator—that was the payoff.

As a farm boy myself, what strikes me after looking at all these grain elevators is the relentless drive towards bigger farms, bigger fields, and bigger grain elevators.  A century ago, farmers carried their grain in sacks to the elevator in horse drawn wagons–so having an elevator within a few miles of the field was essential.  Now, tractor trailer trucks carry bulk grain up to 40 miles to massive rail or river terminals.  The small, old elevators are being abandoned, but they were built to last, and so they persist in the landscape, monuments to a slower time.