Reinforced Concrete Made It Possible for 20th Century Structures

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Late in the 19th century, there were several significant advancements made in improving the method of reinforcing concrete. In 1879 G. A. Wayss, a German civil engineer and pioneer in the construction of iron and steel structures, brought the German rights to patents developed a few years earlier by the Frenchman, Monier. He went on to open the first commercial reinforced concrete business in 1884 called Wayss & Freytag. Wayss is credited with establishing reinforced concrete as a scientific technique.

Another contributor to the developing field of reinforced concrete was Ernest L. Ransome. He is responsible for advancing the innovation and development of nearly all of the earlier techniques from previously known reinforced concrete inventors. Among Ransome’s contributions was to patent “a system of ferro-concrete with the iron rods twisted to improve the bond, then develop a patented Ransome system for practical reinforced concrete construction.” His reinforced concrete structures quickly earned him a reputation and he was given the opportunity to build two of the first reinforced concrete bridges in North America.

One of the bridges was the Alvord Lake Bridge built in 1889. The bridge, which crosses the pedestrian entrance to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, was constructed as a single arch that is 64 ft. wide with a 20-ft. span. It, along with a couple of other reinforced concrete structures in San Francisco, survived the 1906 earthquake and fire in outstanding shape. The bridge was designated as an American Society of Civil Engineers civil engineering landmark in 1969.

Other first reinforced concrete projects include the Ingalls Building, a 16-story skyscraper built in 1904 in Cincinnati, OH, which was the first skyscraper in the world to be constructed with reinforced concrete. Although it is currently for sale, the building is still standing and is a designated National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Furthermore, reinforced concrete provided the strength and resistance to fracturing to allow for the construction of 20th century projects such as the Hoover Dam and Grand Coulee Dam built in the mid-1930s.


The Conco Companies are a leading supplier of concrete services for the Western U.S. We got our start in the Bay Area in 1959 by offering clients the best value on a wide range of concrete services and products. Since that time, we have taken a leading role as one of the top concrete contractors in the region. We have four regional offices serving California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Colorado.





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