“Pouring 24-Hour Concrete House” ACME Photo

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

 

 

 

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6 Comments

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6 responses to ““Pouring 24-Hour Concrete House” ACME Photo

  1. Hello Mr. Henderson,

    As a mechanical engineer and a motorcycle rider, I am interested in finding evidence of Mr. LeTourneau’s architecture while I am out riding. I live about 55 miles from Toccoa, and have seen the airplane hanger and a nearby stamped steel factory building.

    See: http://buckysride.blogspot.com/2010/03/two-trips-to-toccoa.html and http://buckysride.blogspot.com/2010/12/georgia-high-point-but-not-highest.html and
    http://buckysride.blogspot.com/2013/08/toccoa-territory.html

    Are there any of the steel or concrete houses remaining? Do you know if any other steel buildings exist?

    Bucky

    • Bucky,

      It is good to see that Letourneau’s hangar is still in use. There were MANY more steel buildings that R.G. Letourneau produced.

      I just finished a draft of an article called “A Utopian Vision for Tournapull, Georgia:
      R.G. LeTourneau’s Pioneering Machines.” I was asked to write the article for The University of Georgia’s publication the “Athens Historian.” It should be published in the spring of 2015.

      There are still a few all-steel buildings in Toccoa. The Christian Conference center is still being used and has been renovated several times. The Center sits on Lake Louise which is a dammed lake that he created with his patented earthmoving equipment. Toccoa Falls Institute had all-steel dorms and there was even an all-steel Christian radio station. LeTourneau’s own home was made from the panels (it was demolished) and many of his employees had homes made from the panel system as well. There was also a panel system he created that had 10 small dimples rather than one indention like the hangar. The small panel system was used to create what he called an Apart-Home, the homes were very portable (there are a few of these still located around Toccoa), The Apart-Homes were first created in Toccoa and shipped by train to his next plant in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Toccoa was not the first place that LeTourneau used his patented all-steel metal panel system, he first used it in Peoria, Illinois to create his worker-housing community that he called the “Garden City of Tomorrow.” The plans for these houses were slightly different in Illinois because he used different architects to lay out the design. There are still a few of the 1936 homes still being lived in in Peoria. LeTourneau called them “The Carefree Home(s).”
      Once the Athens Historian publishes the article I will post it on this blog.

      Thanks so much for your information about the hangar,

      Everett E Henderson Jr

      • Other than the buildings on the Toccoa Falls campus, do you know the locations of the other steel or concrete structures?

  2. Bucky,

    The Christian Conference Center remains at the side of Lake Louise. You can see it if you go to Google Earth, it is star shaped in plan with a 100 foot dome at its center. The dome was patented by R.G. as well. There were several of the Apart-Homes; the homes were 11′ wide by 27’2″ long. A man from the University of Georgia sent me a picture of an abandoned one near Toccoa, I don’t know of its location though. Being small they were easily re-locatable. There was also an “Atomic-Bomb-Proof” Tourist Court that has been removed, it was created with one of the two Baby Tournalayers.

    If you do locate any of the homes or other buildings on your ride, please do let me know.

    Once the article I wrote is published I will post it as well.

    Thanks,
    Everett E Henderson Jr

  3. Dexter Adams

    I found one Apart-Home in its original location across from the Toccoa plant. It was in the woods at the end of the now-overgrown dead-end street. Only the slabs of the others remain. I found an aerial of the plant and this housing in the Georgia Archives digital collection.
    There is another abandoned, apparently relocated home on the northern outskirts of Toccoa. I have been told of–but have not seen–the remaining home in town that is still lived in. I attend painting class with a lady from Conyers that lived in the “village” as a girl. She was not impressed with the concept. A nice lady at the historical society/visitors center told me she’d “eaten many a supper in those houses”.
    The curators of the “Band of Brothers” museum, longtime Toccoans, were stunned that I was aware of LeTourneau’s housing exploits. They had recently searched for the remains of the Atomic-Bomb-Proof-Motel without success but had no real idea exactly where to look. Next time I’m up there I hope to visit the ApartHome residence and maybe find that motor court!

    • Dexter, Thanks for posting your experience with the housing. I did not know there were any “All-Steel” houses left on the LeTourneau grounds. The “Apart-Homes” were the small buildings made in a jig at the plant. There were much larger buildings created with the patented “All-Steel” panels. LeTourneau’s own home in Toccoa was also made of these panels. The Conference Center was created with them as well. It still stands and has expanded. I am still in the process of trying to get my completed dissertation published – there is MUCH more information in there about LeTourneau’s housing systems. Everett

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