If there was much going on in the news this week, I either didn’t catch it or was not interested enough to tag it for a news roundup. One article from last week, however, was newsy enough for me to track down more information and I offer it here today in lieu of a roundup. The article was in the Natchez Democrat and was titled “Future of Titan Tire property still in limbo.” What caught my eye was the description of the property as a tire factory, and the mention of the Balance Agriculture With Industry, or BAWI program that began in the 1930s as a signature initiative of Gov. Hugh White.
The BAWI program is interesting in its own right for those of us who love exploring the ins and outs of Mississippi architecture, but that’s for another day.
The reason the “tire factory” caught my eye was that I remembered an article I copied off a few years back from an old issue of Architectural Concrete about the massive tire factory recently completed at Natchez. So, I scrounged around and finally found the article. I got permission from the publishers of AC, the Portland Cement Association, to reprint the text along with scanned copies of the photographs–a few of the photos are cut off because of my own lack of adeptness with the copier when I originally photocopied the article. Please don’t talk bad about me because of this, MissPres readers.
I have never seen the old Armstrong plant, which was bought by Titan, according to the Democrat in 1998, and has been closed since 2001. I’ve heard from Natchez sources that the factory doesn’t look like these pictures, but maybe someone out there can verify or not.
This article was originally published in Architectural Concrete, vol. 12, no. 3 (1947), pp. 16-19.
Industrial Plant in Mississippi
by James T. Canizaro, AIA
When officials of the Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co. began preliminary surveys in connection with the construction of their new industrial plant at Natchez, Miss., they were concerned, as most owners are, not only with providing adequate buildings for the production processes involved but also with the cost of such buildings. A choice of reinforced concrete was made after considered all the factors involved since it promised them the most for their construction and maintenance dollar. The plant involved seven structures, all walls of which are architectural concrete with building frames of reinforced concrete. Thin concrete barrel shells roof the main factory building.
Looking now at the completed buildings and having the cost figures per square foot at hand, I can say that the promise was well fulfilled. Built in 1938-39, the main factory cost only $1.03 per sq. ft. The warehouse was slightly more, $1.06. The figure for the press tire factory was $2.60, and that of the other main buildings, such as the cafeteria and office building which have extensive facilities and were built in 1945, was $4.85.
The all-concrete construction and a complete sprinkler system have combined to give the company the lowest fire insurance rate for an industrial plant in the state of Mississippi. Up to the present time maintenance costs have been very low and it is expected that they will remain so.
Built with due allowance for light and air, the plant is a closely compacted unit insuring coordination among various operating divisions. Each building is of strictly functional design according to its particular needs. This had produced an individuality of design in each structure, but the use of a single structural material through has helped to tie the different elements into a harmonious whole.
The main factory is a single-story building with a usable floor space of 188,000 sq. ft., plus 10,000 sq. ft. of mezzanine space. For the roof, we used the barrel-shell type of construction with shell 3 1/2 in. thick stiffened by diaphragms. Each of the six shells span 40 ft. Supporting columns are spaced longitudinally at 50-ft centers. A traveling form was used in the construction of this roof.
In designing the warehouse it was necessary to provide cool, dark atmosphere for storage of rubber. To do this, windows were omitted in this space and adjustable ventilators were places in the north and south walls to insure proper and regulated flow of air. Construction joints at the floor levels and vertical control joints at regular intervals divide the walls into uniform rectangles with a ventilator in the upper center of each rectangle.
A large loading platform, with cantilevered concrete canopy, runs half the length of the warehouse. At one end of this, at the corner of the building, a setback tower extends one story above the roof of the warehouse. This houses the elevator hoist and stairway. Vertical window sash extending nearly four stories in height light the tower. Above this a large clock marks the highest point of any of the buildings.
A feature of the company’s main office and cafeteria buildings is the cantilevered canopies over all windows and doors. These concrete “eyebrows” provide shade protection from the hot Mississippi sun in summer but permit the flatter rays of the winter sun to enter and warm the interior. The normal 2-ft. extension over the windows is increased to 5 ft. at the doorways. Triangular fins were added under the canopy at the entrance to the office building and give greater depth to the entry. A separate building is used principally for making rubber cement, a highly volatile and explosive material. Here reinforced concrete provides necessary protection through its structural strength and fire resistance. Windows in this building are do designed that they would readily blow out in case of an explosion and thus relieve any internal pressure against the walls.
Live loads used in the design varied from building to building, depending on occupancy. In the factory and rubber cement buildings, live load of 500 p.s.f was used, while 300 p.s.f was used in the warehouse and 100 p.s.f. in the office and cafeteria buildings. Design specifications provided for concrete having compressive strength of 3,000 p.s.i. in walls, beams and columns. In the floors on the ground, 2,500-lb concrete was used.
Only the raw storage building is on a pile foundation. Here cast-in-place concrete piles were used because it was found when excavation started that the site was the location of an old pond.
In general, floors on the ground are 5-in. thick reinforced concrete slabs on 4-in. gravel fill with waterproof paper over the fill. In the raw storage building, 15-lb. saturated felt was used over the fill. The lobby of the office building has a terrazzo floor in four colors; brass strips divide the surface into an attractive pattern. The roofs of all building are covered with 1 in. of insulation and a 5-year-guarantee builtup roofing which have proved to be all the insulation necessary to keep the buildings cool.
To construct the formwork both plywood and 1×6-in. boards were used for sheathing. Using the latter for the exposed walls of the warehouse and storage buildings resulted in an attractive board mark finish. Company officials are well pleased with this finish and have asked that it be used exclusively in all future plant expansions.
Column and beam spacing was so planned that form panels could be used as many times as possible. In some cases as high as 11 re-uses were found feasible. Sizes of members were established to permit using stock-size lumber, and this greatly reduced the amount of cutting and allowed more re-uses. Beam depths were kept uniform as much as possible so that shores of the same height could be used throughout a building. This made for considerable economy.
Vertical control joints were used in all buildings at regularly spaced intervals. In some cases, as on the warehouse, they were used deliberately to create a rectangular pattern with the horizontal construction joints, but on other buildings they are very inconspicuous. Contraction has, as of this date, produced no cracking except in the control joints.
The writer has served as architect for the entire project and as an engineer for all except the main factory building, on which Robert and Schaefer Co. of Chicago was engineer, and the warehouse, for which H.N. Howe of Memphis made the engineering design. B.L. Knost, Pass Christian, Miss., was contractor on the main factory building. Harmon Construction Co. of Oklahoma City was the contractor on the press tire factory and Hillyer and Lovan of Jacksonville, Fla., were contractors on all other structures.
reprinted with permission from the Portland Cement Association