Chicago’s Other Skyscrapers: Grain Elevators and the City, 1838-1957

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


More than one hundred major structures for warehousing grain were built in Chicago between the city’s founding decade and the 1960s. These were vital to the city’s status as a transportation and financial capital as they provided the impetus for Chicago’s commodities market and enabled smooth transfer to points east by rail or ship. The city’s grain elevators also served as markers of changing economic geography, as precincts developed throughout the city that related to railroad development, river and lake access, and commercial pressures. Chicago’s decline as a grain market in the late twentieth century is reflected in their abandonment. While elevator structures in Buffalo and Montreal have attracted attention from architectural and urban historians, those in Chicago have been largely ignored, but they show how construction, infrastructure, politics, labor, and trade were uniquely enmeshed with one another due to that city’s position within in networks of rail and water transportation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-34
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Urban History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • agricultural history
  • Chicago
  • construction history
  • finance
  • transportation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Chicago’s Other Skyscrapers: Grain Elevators and the City, 1838-1957'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this