Daylight Factory Style


Larkin Co. Terminal Warehouse



M. Wile Factory



Alling & Cory Bldg.


Trico Plant #1

The bulk of the chapter is an account of the development of the daylight factory between 1898 and 1917. Mr. Banham sees the total evolution in three stages: preliminary (late 1890's to 1906), classic (1906 to 1913) and decadent (1914 to early 1920's).

As St. Denis announced a coming architectural revolution ... As Amiens represented the climax, so did the Terminal Warehouse of the Larkin Company in Buffalo.

Mr. Banham's first, and perhaps most interesting, chapter describes the development of daylight factories, that is, ''multi-story American industrial buildings with exposed concrete frames, filled in only by transparent glazing.''
- John Coolidge, "From Grain to Gropius."  A review of "A Concrete Atlantis U.S. Industrial Building and European Modern Architecture." By Reyner Banham. Illustrated. 266 pp. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press. $25.  (online may 2016)

The Transition From 19th to 20th Century in Industrial Design
National Register of Historic Place - Nomination, pp. 6-7  (online July 2013)

In 19th Century America, industrial buildings were built similarly to their residential counterparts: a post and beam structural system in brick and timber generally enveloped by brick or stone cladding. These buildings were characterized by pitched roofs, with gabled ends and windows that occur as openings in the walls which were topped by segmental arched lintels and seated on flat sills.  The industrial appearance of these buildings came from their height and lack of ornamentation rather than from any real structural distinction. However, this structural system eventually limited the size of the industrial buildings so that in many respects industrial and residential architecture from that period hardly differed.

In the last quarter of the 19th Century, the influence of engineering upon architecture resulted in a new approach to traditional and historic materiality. Roebling's American bridges and those in France by Eiffel, were not only truly elegant in style but they employed the use of iron and steel to solve structural problems. As the century ended, the use of concrete would take on a new form and was being used by being reinforced with steel. By the beginning of the 20th Century, reinforced concrete was being used in European residential commercial structures.

American architect Albert Kahn played a significant role in expanding the applications for reinforced concrete after 1903. Some have argued that Kahn was more of an engineer than an architect, but it is this disciplinary marriage that produced the reinforced concrete frame that Kahn employed to allow broad, clear spaces for the operation of production lines in American automobile factories. This form reached a high point in Kahn's Building #10 done for the Packard Motor Car Company on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit. There the reinforced concrete frame held the loads so that the perimeter walls of the factory could be filled with glass to allow natural light to penetrate into the interior workspaces, thus giving birth to the "Daylight Factory."

This building type was particularly suited to manufacturing because of its open floor space, with fewer and less obtrusive support columns allowed for the reconfiguration of assembly lines.  Additionally, the floor to ceiling window walls that were a consequence of the concrete framing system allowed these workspaces to be light and air filled. Banham, in A Concrete Atlantis, refers to Packard #10 as an "innovative structure [that would] bridge the gap between the older tradition and the stunningly new type of factory (Banham 237)."

There were additional benefits to the reinforced concrete frame that also made it suitable for warehouse use.  Not only were the columns of reinforced concrete, but so were the floor and roof plates, producing a highly rigid structure that could carry extreme weight loads.  Add to this the inherent fireproofing produced by the concrete itself, and there appears the ideal form for the storage of combustible materials. Thus, the Daylight Factory could be used where light and air were not necessary or desirable for the building's use, and the spans between the piers along the exterior walls would be filled with brick or other opaque materials produced by minimal fest ration.
Daylight Factory

... "Daylight Factory" design, which utilized steel reinforced concrete to create strong, fireproof structural systems that supported concrete slab floors. The design featured large unobstructed floor spaces and exposed concrete exterior frames that could be filled with large windows to admit light and air.

The Daylight Factory
By Francis R. Kowsky
An excerpt from the M. Wile Factory Statement of Significance
for the draft of the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places

The complete nomination is online and may be found at
New York's State and National Registers of Historic Places Document Imaging Project

During the third quarter of the nineteenth century, Ernest Ransome, working first in California and later in New York City, developed a system of embedding steel rods in concrete to create a strong, fireproof structural system that supported concrete slab floors. This system proved especially suited to multistoried industrial architecture, for it allowed for the creation of layer upon layer of virtually unobstructed floor space. On the exterior walls, large windows filled the spaces between the exposed concrete frame, admitting abundant light and fresh air to each floor. Elevators and hoists linked the various work levels. Reinforced concrete construction was also inexpensive, easily standardized, and fire proof.

"Around 1900, then," wrote architectural historian Peter Reyner Banham in his book Concrete Atlantis, "the action and the excitement were not in iron and steel but in concrete, which was about to take off into the most spectacular stage of its development in the United States. The new men, headed by Ransome, were above all specialists in concrete, and their subject matter -- the Daylight factory and the grain elevator -- was to be (along with bridge building) concrete's primary province. The evidence of this is overwhelming, on the ground and in the professional literature" (p. 106). As Banham further argued in Concrete Atlantis, functional buildings like these came to influence significantly the course of high style modern architecture.

On the exterior of his buildings Ransome, and other pioneers of this method of construction such as Buffalo's [sic?] Lockwood, Greene and Company, left the skeletal structure of vertical supports and horizontal floor slabs exposed to view. These simple, repetitive exteriors were thus composed of a concrete frame filled in with banks of simple, steel sash windows. Only a modest spandrel was sometimes present beneath the windows to provide space for radiators. By 1924, this revolutionary system, which Banham called the "daylight factory," was fully developed.

There were several major examples in Buffalo prior to the M. Wile Building by Lockwood, Greene and Company, notably the huge Larkin R/S/T Block of 1911, the Buffalo Meter Building of 1915, and the Pierce Arrow Factory of 1907.

The unadorned beauty of structure and proportions that these elementary exteriors portrayed deeply impressed architects such as Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Mies Van Der Rohe. Indeed, the M. Wile Building is contemporary with Gropius' Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, the icon of the International Style. The Buffalo factory was of the same type that, says Banham, "Le Corbusier had used to exemplify his arguments [for a new architecture]; multistoried American industrial buildings with exposed concrete frames, filled in only by transparent glazing; buildings like X-ray images, their bones on public display" (Banham, 23-26).

John Coolidge, From Grain to Gropius (online July 2013)

New York Times review of A Concrete Atlantis, by Reyner Banham.
The book Banham
became inspired to write when he taught in Buffalo at UB 



Alling and Cory Buffalo Warehouse - Nomination for Listing on the National Register of Historic Places, p. 6  (online July 2013)

Larkin Co. Terminal Warehouse / Larkin at Exchange

... Lockwood, Greene's system for the "R, S, T" warehouse (otherwise the terminal warehouse) at the back of the complex, between Van Rensselaer and Hydraulic Streets.

Designed in 1911, built by the Aberthaw Construction Co. in just over six months in spite of its great size, a brilliantly conceived packaging and shipping facility, "R, S,T" has long been recognized as a masterpiece of functional design and rational detailing. It has been commendably maintained by its present owners, Graphic Controls, who also added the"Wrightian" entrance on Exchange Street in 1969, by Arthur Carrara.

- Buffalo Architecture: A Guide, by Francis R. Kowsky, et. al. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981, p. 255

Lockwood, Greene & Co.

Lockwood, Greene & Company of Boston, Massachusetts (later Lockwood, Greene, Engineers, of New York and Spartanburg), was an all-round engineering and factory-design office with roots that go back to the middle of the nineteenth century. Originally specializing in textile mills, it expanded its business southward instep with the textile industry and, at the same time, moved into reinforced concrete construction, following the lead established by Ernest L. Ransome's United Shoe Machinery plant of 1906 at Beverly, Massachusetts.

Buffalo is fortunate that its golden age of industrial building coincided with the very best period of Lockwood, Greene's work in concrete: Graphic Controls (formerly Larkin Company), dating from 1911, is their first masterpiece in concrete. Bethune Hall (formerly Buffalo Meter Company), of 1915, already shows their design on the edge of self-conscious stylishness and decadence.

- Buffalo Architecture: A Guide, by Francis R. Kowsky, et. al. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981, p. 313

Lockwood, Greene & Co., Inc
Reprint of
Scripophily.com: " Lockwood, Greene & Co., Inc - Massachusetts 1923" on June 19, 2008

Lockwood Greene is the oldest professional services firm in the United States, specializing in industrial engineering and construction.

Lockwood Greene traces its origins to 1832, when David Whitman first began offering consulting engineering services to New England textile mills. Whitman became known as "The Mill Doctor," helping mill owners design and operate their mills more efficiently by providing both scientific knowledge and practical know-how.

When American textile companies needed healthy advice during the 1800s, the "mill doctor" was there to make a house call. Mill doctors were engineering consultants who provided valuable guidance covering all aspects of a textile mill, including selecting factory sites, designing buildings and power plants and finally supervising construction.

Three of the most noted mill doctors were David Whitman, Amos D. Lockwood and Stephen Greene, the first leaders of the company known today as Lockwood Greene. Their practical insight helped spur the development of the U.S. textile industry almost two centuries ago, yet their legacy has grown to affect global engineering and manufacturing technology today.

In addition to operating mills, the South needed to provide textile industry education. Lockwood Greene designed several textile schools, most notably Atlanta's Georgia Institute of Technology in 1898. Today, Georgia Tech is regarded as one of America's top research universities.

The following mills in Georgia were designed by or substantially added to by Lockwood Greene:

Mill Location & Date

Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills Atlanta 1889

Lanette Cotton Mills West Point 1891

Exposition Cotton Mills Atlanta 1894

Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills Atlanta 1895

Massachusetts Mils in Georgia Lindale 1895

Columbus Manufacturing Company Columbus 1900

Lanette Cotton Mills West Point 1900

Pacolet Manufacturing Company New Holland 1900

Gainesville Cotton Mills Gainesville 1901

In 1901, Greene's oldest son, Edwin F. Greene, took over the business, expanding into mill management and ownership. The company was profitable until a textile depression struck New England due to Southern competition after World War I. Employees purchased the engineering division in 1920 and continued the business as Lockwood Greene Engineers Inc. The 1920s brought new areas of work, including the design of newspaper and publishing plants, tobacco and food processing facilities, electrical equipment plants and general architecture.

Lockwood Greene's largest architectural design during this time was the Atlantic City Auditorium in New Jersey. When the auditorium opened in 1929, it held the record as the world's largest clear span space - 456 feet long and 310 feet wide - under a 137-foot-high barrel vault ceiling. Today known as Historic Boardwalk Convention Hall, this National Historic Landmark is home to the Miss America Pageant.

Originally designed in 1913, the Lincoln Highway was America's first transcontinental highway, stretching from New York City to San Francisco. During the 1920s, Lockwood Greene designed changes to the Lincoln Highway, such as improved lighting and bridges, to provide a better driving experience.

World War II brought more projects to the company. Its largest wartime achievement was providing architectural and engineering services for Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in 1940. The project covered 10 square miles with 15,000 buildings housing 68,000 soldiers, a hospital, a six-million-gallon-per-day water supply and 65 miles of paved roads. The entire project astonishingly was completed in less than six months.

Today [2008], Lockwood Greene generates more than $1 billion in annual revenues and employs 3,000 professionals in 32 offices worldwide. As America's oldest professional services firm in continuous operation for industrial engineering and construction, Lockwood Greene has provided the ingenuity and innovation to promote the nation's industrial development over the last 170 years.

United Shoe Machinery Corp, Beverly, MA

Beyond its sheer magnitude, the plant was internationally known because it was the first successful application of reinforced concrete, pre-dating architect Albert Kahn's Detroit automobile factories. Built by construction innovator Ernest Ransome, the plant was created by a revolutionary method of embedding twisted square iron rods into the concrete. This incredibly sturdy design permitted large glass window panes to make up 85 percent of the wall area. ... More than 2,000 5-foot by 10-foot windows flooded this factory's pre-electricity interiors with natural light.

- Buildings Magazine, April 2000



Photos and their arrangement 2006 Chuck LaChiusa
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