I received a photograph yesterday from an eBay purchase. While I have spent many hours visiting archives, I am amazed at the technology involved with eBay and the search tools. I had purchased a few LeTourneau postcards of the Conference Center in Toccoa, Georgia through eBay a few years ago and eBay “has my number” so-to-speak. When I went to search for an obscure Evinrude part (which I found, but that’s another story), eBay showed me this “Pouring 24-Hour Concrete House” press photograph (ACME PHOTO to be exact).
ACME photo: “Pouring 24-Hour Concrete House” (note: all photos can be enlarged for details)
I know this may come as a surprise, but almost none of the information on the back of this press photo is correct (see the reverse side below – verso). The photo was taken in Vicksburg, Mississippi and the Mississippi River can be seen in the background. The Loess Bluffs are clearly seen in the elevation change. The elevation change is being taken advantage of as the concrete mixer is located higher on the bluff. The Tournalayer is seen from a perspective that I have not seen in the past. The Tournalayer is in the center of the photograph and the men are pouring concrete in the molds and the steel reinforcing wire and ceiling electrical boxes have been placed. The photo also reveals that many men were needed to create a house even thought the Tournalayer was automated. The main drive system of the Tournapull is obscured by the photo angle. The two cylindrical forms mounted to the top of the inner forms are the access points to release the inner molds. The rebar was welded to the steel cylinders; the steel cylinders would be used as ventilation for the housing. The conduit was installed alongside the rebar. The concrete mixing machine to the left is definitely not a LeTourneau invention as all of the connections are permanently connected with rivets; LeTourneau took pride in not using rivets because they did not allow for the machines to be easily constructed or re-tuned in-situ at a later date to meet site conditions.
Verso of “Pouring 24-Hour Concrete House”
The Tournalayer did not pour the house in its final location, there was a central construction site (seen in photo) where the Tournalayer was used then the whole concrete house was carried to its home-site with the Tournalayer hence the term “house-laying.” The press clip also states that the Tournalayer used “hydraulic lifts” to hoist the forms; LeTourneau instead of relying on hydraulics preferred to use electric motors, gears, and steel cables to operate his machines. The text also states that the houses in the background are “samples of the machine-laid houses.” The houses in the background while non-traditional with their flat roofs and simple white appearance are not Tournalaid homes. The homes appear to be prefabricated in sections or possibly constructed on-site. They do appear to have been built in stages or sections by the appearance of the “T” plan shape with an added porch of differing material. There is also a distinct overhang that suggests an early mobile home design that was not originated by LeTourneau, although LeTourneau at this time did have quite a few patented all-steel panel houses already being manufactured in Peoria, Illinois and Toccoa, Georgia.
Detail of ACME photo: “Pouring 24-Hour Concrete House”
The “T” shaped houses cannot be seen in the aerial of LeTourneau Court at “LeTourneau, Vicksburg” called: Old Courthouse Museum Archive Research – LeTourneau, Vicksburg but there is a reference to these houses in an early cartoon that LeTourneau made to show his booming community: The Culture of a Machine Crafted Architecture: The First Tournalaid Communities The detail of the published cartoon (below) shows that the “T” shaped houses were located on LeTourneau Court before the Tournalaid homes were created. It also shows the all-steel Apart-Homes that remained well into the 1970s as they visually stood apart from the smooth all concrete white houses with their dimpled appearance of pressed sheet-steel.
Detail from the in-house publication NOW Caption: “LeTourneau at Vicksburg” September 1, 1944. Vol.9, No.16.
The “T” shaped houses must have been demolished or relocated as the community consisted of around 90 Tournalaid homes. The cartoon does show the experimental “Igloo” home to the left of the plant with the mold to the right of the plant as it is suspended from a “bomber crane.”
The photograph reveals the early construction process of the Tournalayer. It was still new at this time and LeTourneau would replace the other manufacturer’s concrete mixing equipment with his own invention the Tournamixer. The Tournamixer could pour large quantities of concrete to heights up to around twenty feet.
If anyone has information on these “T” shaped houses, please do feel free to contribute.