Physics Construction: Worse than Yesterday

I’m still looking carefully at those photos of the construction of the physics building–I had one look at this and felt a cold chill.

Physics book 1914 back construction

Zoom in and look at the left side of the tall structure. Please someone tell me that thing that looks like the world’s tallest ladder was not meant for people to climb.

I’m grateful to the brave men who made these beautiful early buildings without benefit of OSHA regulations.

Physics book 1914 back

Bonus: I ran across this picture from about the mid ’70s today. At first my eye was caught by the little building but now I’m more interested in the landscaping. It’s very different. I’ve never seen that hedge before. Does anyone know when it went away?

Physics west side c mid70s

Extra Bonus: P1030095

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15 Responses to Physics Construction: Worse than Yesterday

  1. Sandy Havens says:

    My best guess on the hedge is that it used to screen the Physics Building parking lot from the Quad. When the parking lot went away so did the hedge.

  2. Grungy says:

    If it’s a ladder, then it’s even worse than you think, because the rungs appear to be affixed to a solid sheet of something, instead of between two risers. That could make it a lot harder to get a grip.
    I’m thinking that it’s part of the crane system directly over it – something like cam stops for something being lifted. Whatever was being lifted would have some kind of tab that stuck out that would bump along the rungs/stops, and the lifter could take a break with the whatever partially supported by the stop.

    • Grungy says:

      On further thought, lifting heavy items that might require a cog on the OUTSIDE of the structure makes no sense at all. We can see the line hanging from the center of the beam. It would make much more sense to lift from there. Maybe it was a cog system for a counter-weight. Or maybe it was a place for the counter-weight to place his feet during the ride down?

  3. marmer01 says:

    I agree with Sandy on the hedge. That’s not that tall of a ladder, and looks pretty stout. They might have even had rudimentary fall protection with ropes and hooks.
    Next time you see a building crane, look at that ladder for the operator. Poor sod must climb for an hour.

    • James says:

      I have a friend who is a retired crane operator and some of the stories he told me about his job are pretty scarey. He worked on many of the buildings standing today in Houston that was built in 70’s thru the 90’s. They did climb up the cranes but had a platform to stop every so many floors to rest. It’s a long way up to the top of a 40 to 60 story building, and gets pretty hot in the summer and cold in the winter. He got paid big bucks for his trade.
      On the ladder discussion, I don’t think that is a ladder. The construction workers would go from floor to floor on the inside of the building and not from the outside like many think. The ladder looking “thing” I feel confident is for lifting. Notice all the “buckets” with wheels, these were used for getting the concrete to the floors as the building was build.

  4. marmer01 says:

    And Grungy might be right about it being part of the lifting system.

  5. The “worlds tallest ladder” looks like a conveyor/lift belt to me. The bottom wheel was probably in a ditch behind that pile of dirt. Maybe it was lifting cement.

  6. Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

    Melissa,
    If that pic gives you trouble, then you should never, never look at the pics of the construction workers in the early days of bullding skyscrapers in New York and elsewhere.

  7. Deborah Gronke Bennett (BSEE Hanszen '82) says:

    Did you notice the guy just standing on that rather steeply pitched roof?
    I’m intrigued by the two-wheeled wagons in the foreground of the first picture. I wonder if they are to move concrete from wherever it is being mixed to where it is being used?
    And, of course, no picture of construction at Rice would be complete without at least one good-sized puddle.

    • Richard Schafer says:

      One of the amazing things in these old construction pictures is the amount of human powered movement of materials that’s evident in them. Those old buildings really were hand-made.

  8. effegee says:

    The parking lot and hedge went away as part of the preparations for the G8 Summit in 1990.

    I think it has been mentioned but the parking lot turned out to have residual radioactivity from the early years of experiments in PL. (Legend had it that some samples found their way out the windows.) Lots of HazMat suits for a while during the removal.

  9. mattnoall says:

    It is hard to tell but in the back at the bottom of the “ladder” it looks like there might be a large gear wheel. My first thought looking at it was that it was a lift system of some sort to convey heavy materials to the top

  10. mjthannisch says:

    ON another topic, all of you who enjoy Rice History might enjoy: https://www.facebook.com/SloaneGallery

    Great pictures, some of Rice

  11. The photo from the previous day shows a long inclined rail for carts. The cart in the photo has a crane. That is probably how they got the stone up to the top.

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