Entry Level

I mentioned a few days ago that railroad stations were among the first buildings in the US to need the services of structural engineers in design. The other group consisted of gyms and other large indoor spaces. Wood trusses were the traditional method of creating long-span roofs, but not compatible with late-1800s new ideas about …

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Standardization, Part 4

In 1890, there were hundreds of steel sections rolled by dozens of mills. Most of the sections were effectively legacies of wrought iron, rolled to the same geometry as the predecessor metal, which was still in use. There was general agreement on what steel was, but competing ideas about metallurgy. All told, saying that you …

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Construction History: Bit By Bit

The B. Altman department store, founded in the mid-1800s and out of business in 1989, was for most of the twentieth century located in a limestone palace at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. The building is a designated landmark, and has been happily repurposed as a home for the CUNY Graduate Center, a branch of …

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A Moment of Transition

Two snippets from the structural drawings for a 1926 steel-frame apartment house in Manhattan, AKA a pre-war. Above, a column foundation. The grillages I’ve been showing were mostly from the 1890s; here’s one thirty years later. The load on column number 12 is 850,000 pounds (I think that’s a 5), and the weight of the …

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Construction History: Comparison

By now, I’ve shown so many pictures like the one above that I feel like anyone reading can probably pick out the main points. That’s the frame of the Carnegie Building in Pittsburgh, as published in “American and English Practice in Architectural Steel Construction” in the Engineering Magazine, May 1898. The author, Charles Childs, makes …

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