Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Graveley's Arch

In 1930, a Tulane University civil engineering graduate named Eugene Cenas Graveley († Costa Rica 1943) patented a welded steel roof construction method. He founded a company based on the technique and established offices in New Orleans (2126 Poland Street),  Houston and Orlando.

He stressed that his arch construction method was particularly well suited to the tropics:

"This is the only type of Construction which has withstood the TROPICAL HURRICANES 100% unhurt despite the centers of two in one month (including the most destructive one on record) passing through a nest of our Buildings."(1)

He recommended its use for auditoriums, gymnasiums, churches, dance pavilions, theaters, movie houses, railroad stations, hangars, automobile garages, dock sheds, cotton and sugar houses, machine shops, and warehouses.

His earliest buildings were automotive garages in Louisiana, with the first -- a S. Rampart Street structure designed by New Orleans architect Martin Shepard for the Rhodes Undertaking Company -- requiring a tie rod. After stress tests conducted on his building sites and at Princeton University boosted Graveley's confidence, his designs abandoned tie rods altogether.

If  you want to see a Gravely Arch in New Orleans, visit United Machinery at 2530 Canal Street. The extant structure is what remains of the engineer's Felix Garage, shown above.

(1)The Arch Construction Co., Inc. The Resurrection of the Oldest Type of Building Construction: The Arch. New Orleans: Eugene Graveley, 1929. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. NEW! View full document via the Internet Archive's Building Technology Heritage Library here.

Images from publication cited above.

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