Modern interest in the balloon frame dates from 1941 when Siegfried Giedion identified the inventor of this important technological innovation in wooden construction as George Snow of Chicago. According to Giedion, Snow used the technique for the first time in 1833 to build St. Mary's Church in Chicago. Walker Field, writing in an early issue of the SAH Journal corrected Giedion's assertion by proving that if St. Mary's Church possessed the first balloon frame, then its inventor had to be the builder of that church, a carpenter named Augustine Taylor. Here we are able to verify that indeed it was George Snow who originated balloon framing, but in 1832, not 1833, and in the erection of a building that was not a church, but a warehouse. Further investigations have revealed the probable location of Snow's warehouse on the bank of the Chicago River near its mouth, and have provided plausible explanations as to why Snow built in so revolutionary a way in so primitive a place as the village of Chicago-viz., the sudden and rapid growth of Chicago, the lack of large timbers and the services of skilled carpenters needed for ordinary frame construction, and the availability of scantling and nails. From this modest experiment in building evolved a system of wooden construction that not only made possible the rapid settlement of the treeless regions of the West, but which still serves in modified form as the basic ingredient of contemporary wooden frame construction.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.