Power Plant Conversions, Museums & Historical Sites in the USA
Belle Isle (OK)

In Apr 1949, this 3.5-MW machine was delivered to Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company's Belle Isle power station. On 29 Jul 1949, it began delivering power to the gird making it the first GT to be used for electric utility power generation in the United States. By Nov 1953, it had run for a total of 30,000hrs. The GT exhaust was directed upwards into a recuperator where it flowed over tubes carrying condensate from the condensers for a conventional 35-MW unit. The gas-fired, two-stage expansion turbine was derived from early aircraft gas turbine and featured a fifteen-stage axial compressor. The GT was removed from the site in 1980 and preserved for display at GE Energy’s Schenectady campus. On 8 Nov 1984, it was dedicated as a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by ASME.

Photograph courtesy of Combined Cycle Journal
Posted 9 Sep 2009


The 18-MW Boiling Nuclear Superheater (BONUS) reactor northwest of Rincón on the north coast of Puerto Rico was built by General Electric, the US AEC, and Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority as a prototype to establish the technical and economic feasibility of the integral boiling-superheating concept. It was one of only two such reactors ever developed in the United States. Construction began in 1960 and the reactor went critical on 13 Apr 1964. After testing, the reactor was operated at various power levels, first as a boiler and later as an integral boiler-superheater. Operation at full power (50 MWt) and full temperature (900 F steam) was achieved in Sep 1965, and tests demonstrated satisfactory operation at 10% over power in Nov 1965. Operation of the BONUS reactor was terminated in June 1968 because of technical difficulties. PREPA decommissioned the reactor in 1969/70 and the site was released for unrestricted use in 2003. It is now hosts a power and electricity technology museum. In Oct 2007, the BONUS facility was nominated for inclusion on the National Park Service National Register of Historic Places and it was so-listed in 2008.

Photograph courtesy of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority
Posted 8 Nov 2009

Durango (CO)

In 1892, Durango Light and Power Co built this power station on the Animas River. It is almost the only surviving, steam-electric AC powerhouse of its era in the USA. Initially, some small generators were moved in from an existing power station in the town including a pair of 100-kW AC generators. In the early 1900s, a 350-kW Corliss engine was installed. In 1913, the plant became part of Western Colorado Power Co and, around 1918, some new boilers and a 500-kW GE steam set were added. In 1941, sales began to La Plata Electric Association, a local coop formed in 1939. In 1947, a 1,250-kW steam turbine was installed and, in 1946, natural gas was supplied to the plant. A new boiler and 3,500-kW turbine was added in 1949.

Power generation at Durango stopped in 1972 and the powerhouse was shut down and boarded up, eventually to become the property of the City of Durango. It is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. In 1999, the Children's Museum of Durango had outgrown its space and prepared a business plan that proposed converting the Powerhouse and its site to an interactive science museum. In 2002, the Durango City Council passed a resolution supporting the birth of the facility as the Durango Discovery Museum. Grants were obtained from the state for general renovation, asbestos removal, and site cleanup and the project was completed with largely volunteer help in 2005. A variety of electromechanical equipment was preserved and remains on display.

Photograph and information courtesy of Durango Discovery Museum
Posted 12 Mar 2011

Fox River Dam (WI)

This is a contemporary view of the Fox River Dam in Appleton WI, near the the site of the world's first hydroelectric plant. This was completed on 30 Sep 1882 by Mr Henry J Rogers, who used the electricity to light Appleton Paper and Pulp Co, the Vulcan Paper Mill, and his home. The ~12.5-kW Edison Type K dynamo hydrogenerator went online only a few weeks after Thomas Edison's Pearl Street thermal power station in New York City. The original generator was in the Appleton Paper beater room and all the associated buildings burned to the ground in 1891. An addtional Type K generator acquired at the same time began operation on 25 Nov 1882 at Vulcan Paper, later known as the West Vulcan Plant. The area is now an historic district including Hearthstone Historic House Museum, the Rogers home originally lit by the dynamo, plus the a building associated with the W Vulcan Plant. In Sept 1977, whe latter buiding was dedicated as an ASME National Historic Engineering Landmark.

Photograph courtesy of www.crowdersentry.net
Posted 3 Oct 2015

Glenwood-Yonkers (NY)

In 1901, the New York Central Railroad began construction on the $2mn Glenwood Power Station. The plant went online in 1906 powering the mainline between New York and Albany and most of the city of Yonkers. Two coal-fired steam turbines were installed. In 1936, the NYCRR decided to get out of the power generation business and sold to the plant to Consolidated Edison Co of NY for $850,000.The plant ran into the early 1950s but was gradually backed down as newer, larger power stations plants were built and finally Glenwood was shutdown for good after sitting idle for years. After a failed attempt to sell the structure and the property to the City of Yonkers for a sum of $1, ConEd abandoned it completely, removing its steam turbines and machinery from the pit, and the boilers from their brick stalls. All that was left behind were the hydraulic circuit breakers, stripped switchboards, and 5 or 6 rotary converters, which occupied the 2nd floor of a smaller building, which sat to the north of the main powerhouse. Over the last four decades, the plant became somewhat of an urban legend, the subject of local folklore, and fell victim to more impromptu scavenging and vandalism as the neighborhood around it slowly fell apart. The site is being evaluated for landmark designation and adaptive reuse.

Photograph courtesy of and text adapted from lostcityexplorers.net
Posted 27 Jul 2005

Holliday Hydro (IN)

The Holliday Dam and Hydro project in Hamilton County, Indiana, was placed on the National Historical Register in 1995. It was found significant for its innovative generating equipment, its architecturally distinctive powerhouse, and its role in the history of electric power in Indiana. Built from 1922-1927 on the West Fork of the White River, this is the only known example of its type of generating facility still in existence in the Midwest. It has two Leffel Z Francis turbines with General Electric generators. These are considered the first modern Francis type turbines, with 90% efficiency. In addition, the Holliday powerhouse in the French Chateau style was noted for its architectural significance. [Technical data from Norway and Oakdale Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project Nos UL00-2 & UL00-1) Appendix E4-1: Historic Resources Report, prepared for Northern Indiana Public Service Co by Historic Certification Consultants, 2003.]

Photograph courtesy of Noblesville Preservation Alliance Inc
Posted 6 Aug 2005

Ottawa Street (MI)

Ottawa Street Power Station on the Grand River was the first full-scale central plant for Lansing Board of Water & Light. It was designed by Ralph C Roe and Allen Burns of the firm of Burns and Roe. The architectural design was by Edwyn A Bowd of Bowd and Munson. Construction began in 1937 and, due to material shortages caused by the outbreak of the Second World War, completed in two phases. The first phase, which consisted of the southern half of the building, was completed in 1939. The second phase was completed in 1946. In total, the project cost $4mn, all of it from ratepayers. Three 25-MW generating units were installed using B&W boilers and Allis Chalmers T/G sets.

The 176ft Art Deco, step-back structure sits on a polished black granite base, with an intricate exterior design of multicolor brick. The design symbolizes the combustion of coal, and graduates from dark purple at the base through reds and orange in the middle, to light yellow at the top, alternating with bands of limestone. The building has limestone parapets and trim. The Ottawa Street station was praised for its engineering and architecture in trade publications of the day, and immediately became the city's preeminent Art Deco landmark. The original design had hidden stacks, the single central stack was added in 1954. The plant operated regulary through the 1970s, was gradually moved to intermediate service, and was finally decommissioned for power production in 1992, although it ran for a time as a central chllling plant from 2001.

Photograph courtesy of American Institute of Steel Construction
Posted 17 Sep 2011

Ottawa Street Rebuild (MI)

After a number of reuse proposals fell though for the Ottawa Street PS, Accident Fund Insurance Co of America announced in fall 2007 that it would convert the plant into its world corporate headquarters. The prime contractor was The Christman Company, which had also worked on the foundations and basework on the original plant. In addition to overhauling the power plant building, a new office building was added on the 7ac site. The $200mn project completed in Mar 2011 and received national recognition in the 2011 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2). Members of the project team included The Christman Company, architect of record HOK, architect Quinn Evans Architect, structural engineer of record ARUP, construction engineer Ruby + Associates, Inc, and steel detailer, fabricator, and erector Douglas Steel Fabricating Corp.

The existing building consisted of two primary areas: a 10-story tower and the original turbine hall. Douglas Steel developed an innovative technique that enabled erection of the internal structure without disturbing the building exterior. The process involved installing two temporary 14ft by 40ft roof hatches at the top of the tower, hoisting all of the steel through these roof hatches, and setting the new steel from the ground up. This required a detailed erection plan and a very high-level of communication between the ironworkers and crane operator. The team coordinated structural steel elements with other materials to preserve the aesthetic and visual impact of the project including exposed interior steel beams and columns from the original industrial structure, exposed brick masonry , and holding back the new ceilings from the exterior walls allowing the full height of the windows to be viewed from each floor. In addition, the original turbine hall overhead crane, rails, structural steel girders, and bearing support points remain as an aesthetically pleasing exposed feature.

The Ottawa Street Power Station is now registered on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. Construction waste management has achieved nearly 100% waste diversion, by weight (7,000t), including 800t of steel and 600t of concrete. About 75% of the building’s existing brick and 95% of its existing masonry was cleaned and reused.

Photograph courtesy of The Christman Co
Posted 17 Sep 2011

Pratt Street (MD)

This repurposed complex on Baltimore's Inner Harbor may be the most commeicailized old power station in the world with a mix of stores and other commercial establishments. The steel-frame, brick structures have terra cotta trim and were built beginning in 1900 by the noted architectural firm of Baldwin & Pennington. This was one of only 11 buildings in the zone of the Baltimore Fire of 1904 to survive that event. When it first began operation in 1904, Pratt Street PS was equipped with five 3,000 HP steam engines equipped with 2-MW alternators driven by a battery of 32 B&W stoker boilers. The engine house was equipped with an overhead electric crane, said to be the largest in the world at the time. By 1909, capacity was 39 MW with a 5-MW Curtis turbine and a 7-MW Westinghouse Parsons turbine. Pratt Street initially served as the main source of power for the United Railways and Electric Co.

In 1921, Pratt Street was sold to Consolidated Gas, Electric Light and Power Co, a predecessor of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. The facility used sparingly until returned to full time operation during World War II. Pratt Street was permanently closed in 1973. The building was vacant for some time, and was eventually acquired by the City of Baltimore and redeveloped with the first commercial establishments opening in 1985.

Photograph by G Edward Johnson (wikipedia)
Posted 1 Nov 2015

Salida (CO)

This steam power plant was built in Salida, Colorado, by Salida Edison Electric Light Co. The oldest part of the current building dates to 1887 and Salida’s first public lights were illuminated on 7 Dec 1887, just five years after Thomas Alva Edison installed the Pearl Street power plant in New York City. In 1892, a 1-MW coal-fired plant was added which also supplied the facilities of the D&RG Railroad. The power plant was extended between 1909 and 1914 and again between 1929 and 1945. In 1905, Salida Edison Electric merged with Salida Light Power and Utility Co (which had hydroelectric plants on the South Arkansas River). In 1916, Colorado Power Co acquired the Salida electric system and in turn was acquired by Public Service Company of Colorado in 1924. The Salida steam plant was operated only intermittently starting around 1931, reactivated in 1948, place on standby in 1958, and retired in 1963, after which the structure was used for storage.

In 1987, the building was purchased for $35,000 by Salida Enterprise for Economic Development, which then deeded the property to the city. In 1989, the facility was converted into a theater venue known as the Steam Plant Theater and, in 1995, the outdoor Sculpture Garden opened on the grounds. The Steam Plant is now being further extended as a conference center.

Photograph by Earle Kittleman
Posted 16 Jul 2008

South Street (RI)

The first generators at South Street in Providence, Rhode Island, were completed by Narragansett Electric Lighting Co in 1912. The plant engineers were Jenks and Ballou and the site is on the Providence River in the Jewelry District area. Additional units were added up until 1955 when a 62.5-MW unit was finished. The plant was coal-fired initially, but later units subsequently converted to oil firing. NEL deactivated the plant in Jan 1991. In 1999, Narragansett Electric donated the oldest structures to Heritage Harbor Corp  for creation of Heritage Harbor Museum, a $59mn collaborative project of 19 nonprofit organizations. South Street was added to the National Historical Register in Jul 2006. After many delays, the museum project was shelved. Instead developer Struever Bros, Eccles & Rouse acquired the structure and began work on Dynamo House, a commercial development with a hotel, office space, a restaurant, and a two-floor hotel. The $150mn scheme stalled in the fall of 2009.

Photograph courtesy of www.artinruins.com
Posted 8 Nov 2009

Vero Beach Diesel (FL)

This building housed the second municipal power station for Vero Beach Utilities in Indian River Co. The project was constructed under the supervision of architectural and engineering firms Carter and Damerow and Francis J Kennard and Sons. The 8,000ft² building at 19th Place and 12th Court is built of structural steel, reinforced concrete and brick. The first phase was completed in 1926 with a 750HP McIntosh and Seymore diesel engine. Over the next 30yrs, five more gensets were added, mostly Nordberg engines. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 after the City of Vero Beach invested over $300,000 in building and site cleanup preparatory to adaptive reuse. Several proposals are on the table to reuse the structure but, to date, nothing has progressed.

Photograph by SebasTorrente (wikipedia)
Posted 14 Nov 2015

Updated 14-Nov-2015