Flared Mushroom Columns

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By Jonathan H

Mushroom Column at Roofing Factory
A Mushroom Column — Quintessential element of an early 20th century manufacturing or industrial structure

Roofing Factory Satellite ImageAlbert Kahn revolutionized industrial architecture with his Ford Packard plant and similar factory designs. What was perhaps most influential in Architecture was his use of reinforced concrete, beginning ca. 1904.

A quintessential element of many industrial buildings, from 1900 to 1950 are Mushroom Columns — large, flared support structures, extending into a disc-like capital.

I can’t tell you how fond I am of these pillars. Seeing mushroom columns is an immediate clue as to the date of the building. It is the type of construction that typifies Early 20th-century Fordism and efficiency.

The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Historic Landmarks Commission has a nice description of why these columns were in such wide use. The unique, load-bearing design of those columns allowed for maximum support with minimal space utilization. The reinforced concrete — which was a revolutionary new design in the early 1900s — also allowed for a fireproof structure.

In Charlotte alone, there were 14 buildings constructed in this way, and I can honestly say that, in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve been inside at least a dozen buildings that have this same design.

One comment on “Flared Mushroom Columns

  1. detroit doppelganger on said:

    thanks for this explanation of the flared mushroom column. I explore and photograph a great many abandoned factories in my hometown of Detroit. I too am fastinated with these columns

    here is a link to some of my photos of the packard factory, fisher body, etc with lots of shots of columns


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