The South Street power plant is a majestic landmark monument to Rhode Island’s industrial age. The Classical Revival-style, four-section structure was constructed by the Narragansett Electric Lighting Company in several phases from 1912 to 1925. It replaced an earlier plant built in 1888, known as the Narragansett Electric Lighting Company Dynamo House. To this day, one wall of the Dynamo House remains intact and part of the larger building.
As each section of the power plant was built, it became known for the purpose it served: the 200-Pound House held a double row of 16 boilers able to generate steam at 200 lbs. of pressure per square inch (psi); Turbine Hall, constructed during the same period, accommodated the massive steam-driven turbo-generators that produced the electricity; the 66,000-volt substation was built in 1919; and the last major construction began in 1924 producing the 400-Pound House, which housed massive new boilers operating at nearly 400 psi. Throughout this period, the existing structures were expanded to accommodate increased electrical demand and the coal-burning generators were converted to burn pulverized coal “finer than talcum powder.” The powder was conveyed to the boiler houses, blown into the boilers, and burned to create steam to run the turbines.
Historical maps and plans from the mid-20th century show additions of a coal-pulverizing plant, a new powerhouse known as the 2,000-Pound House, and three fuel oil tanks, suggesting that some of the boilers were being fired by oil. By 1970, only one oil tank remained on the property and the coal pulverizing plant was no longer extant. Ultimately, Narragansett Electric phased out the South Street power plant in favor of their Manchester Street facility, which was expanded and modernized in 1995. Subsequent decommissioning of the South Street power plant resulted in the removal of the gate house, the 2,000-Pound House, the oil tanks, and the chimney stacks atop the building.
In 1999, Narragansett Electric donated the 1912-1925 structure (with the exception of the substation on its north side) to Heritage Harbor Corporation for creation of Heritage Harbor Museum, a place of learning and collaboration, where Rhode Islanders will be able to explore their roots. When visitors enter the power plant, they will enter the Dynamo House — renamed in tribute to the building’s own roots.
Taken with a Nikon Digital D3000 and a Nikkor Zoom lens.
Edited in Nikon Capture NX2 software
Featured in Dark and Industrial Imagery November 2010