Gilded Age power plants

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Tom Bates

Aug 16, 2002
From a 1911 newspaper "new power plant opens is new york city iis the largest on earth 9,000 mw of power." If any one of you want more on power plants in the 1900 to 1940 era or have any questions about power plants of that era i could anser them.

James Hefner

Jul 3, 2004

I am still wading through the thousands of postings on this site; will probably never read it all!

We seem to have a lot of common interests. I have an obvious interests in steam engines of all kinds; but I also worked for 13 years for the local electric utility. I wrote computer programs for the department that did the regulatory reporting and performance testing.

I also share your interests in power plants of that era. I am a big advocate for adaptively reusing the ones we have remaining, or even saving them as museums.

My current effort is to try to have the compressor house at a former coke plant site in the city of Milwaukee preserved intact as a mixed use museum and retail space. The Milwaukee newspaper ran an article about Larry Tucker and my proposal; you can read it online at:

Larry has taken hundreds of photographs of the compressor house and the plant itself; I have placed a sample of them in the Solvay Coke Plant Photo Gallery at:


We are not sure what the final outcome will be at this point. It is intact for now, but the latest scuttlebutt is that it may be razed to the second floor itself. We just don't know.

There are a few Gilded Age era powerplants in my neck of the woods:

* Pine Bluff Power Plant in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, built in about 1900, repowered in the 1950s, gutted in the 1970s or so, was an empty shell with the stacks still standing when I visited, but have heard that the stack has since been blown down.

* Gable Street Power Plant in Houston, Texas. Originally built as a streetcar plant with reciprocating engines prior to 1900, and repowered several times since. Last unit intact till the 1980s or maybe 1990s; I have heard there was even a vertical axis steam turbine intact until then. The outside boiler from the last unit has been scrapped; I have no idea what remains inside.

* Market Street Power Plant in New Orleans. It is that old building with the two stacks that lies north of the freeways and the French Quarter as you come in from Algiers to the west or I-10 from the north. Built in 1900, repowered several times over it's lifetime; some equipment still intact inside and visible through the windows.

I guess you saw my posting mentioning McNeill Street Pumping Station on the Steam Pump thread, the former Crowell Lumber mill in Long Leaf, Louisiana is another amazing place. Here is what it looked like prior to being made a museum in June, 1995:

... and here is what it looked like in March of 2002 and later. The site continues to undergo restoration:


It sounds indeed like we have a lot in common; I look forward to visiting with you more as time allows.

-James Hefner
Hebrews 10:20a

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