Save Another Landmark - The Tennessee Electric Power Building By Finley Stadium

Monday, July 3, 2017
I noticed a recent article, in your paper, on the saving of another historic building near the First Tennessee Pavilion.  This reminded me of another  building that needs to be preserved also, the Chattanooga and East Tennessee River Power Company Building, located at Henry and Carter Street. 
 
The books of "Electric Power Plants" by Thomas Murray (1910) and "Red Iron Ores of East Tennessee" 1913 mention this company and its power production for Chattanooga, including the design illustration of the power hydro electric station at Hale's Bar, the 44,000 Volt transmission lines winding back and forth across the NC and St Louis Railroad and crossing the future site of The Southern Railroad, the 175 feet tall transmission towers crossing the river onto Moccasin Bend and then crossing the river again and finally to the switching building which it indicates 69'10" long X 55'4" wide X 81' high (from ground) with a 15' high basement that included conduits for future underground distribution of electricity.
I can't imagine how things looked then in downtown Chattanooga.

I remember the many manufacturing facilities in the 50's and 60's, located in this area and hearing Chattanooga being the "Dynamo of Dixie", but never thought why until I researched this subject.  The blessing of the red iron ore in East Tennessee and Alabama plus the private business men who built this facility which later becomes Tennessee Electric Power Company.

I would hope that this building could be repurposed to shopping, restaurants or a museum to foresight of the men who developed electric power. in Tennessee.

Nashville Electric System March 2015
Originally, the part of the Tennessee River just downstream of where Chattanooga now sits was a treacherous stretch. Known as “The Suck,” it was a part of the river where the currents were unpredictable and shallow stretches were hard to see coming. One riverman used to tell a story about how, once on a trip through The Suck, he passed a shack with a man playing a banjo out front, then another, then another, then another. It was only then that he realized that the current was spinning him around and that he was, in fact, passing the same shack over and over again. Largely because of the navigational difficulties of this stretch, business and governmental officials were trying to build a dam to improve navigation for years. In 1905 an entity called the Chattanooga & Tennessee River Power Co. began building such a dam; in addition to serving as an aide to navigation, it was fitted with a hydroelectric plant. The dam and plant –known as Hale’s Bar–  weren’t completed until 1913, by which time the company was building a dam on the Ocoee River. At that point the company began building huge transmission lines set up to deliver power to Middle Tennessee.

National Historic Record-PRE-TVA HYDROELECTRIC DEVELOPMENT IN TENNESSEE, 1901-1933
"The earliest commercial application of electricity in Tennessee was in the City of Chattanooga on May 6, 1882, when a amall steam-powered electrical generating plant lit some street lights".


National Historic Record-PRE-TVA HYDROELECTRIC DEVELOPMENT IN TENNESSEE, 1901-1933The first production of electricity in Tennessee by means of hydropower was an early twentieth century phenomenon. While strides had been made in the late nineteenth century in other areas of the United States and in Europe, it was not until 1901, when entrepreneurs in Tennessee, seeing the potential to electrify cities, factories and towns with hydropower, initiated the first hydroelectric construction in the state. Some smaller attempts utilizing the limited power of creeks and streams were successful earlier, but these were extremely limited and idiosyncratic in nature. Hydroelectric power would, however, develop in Tennessee to the stature of giant public utility corporations producing electricity for the entire state by means of hydro- and coal-burning steam-powered generating facilities between 1901 and 1930.

National Historic Record-PRE-TVA HYDROELECTRIC DEVELOPMENT IN TENNESSEE, 1901-1933
The noted growth of Chattanooga in the first two decades of the twentieth century appears to have been related to the Hale's Bar complex - on the Tennessee River provided the current necessary to produce the sheer number of electrical kilowatts generated there. Because it offered a much larger power source than did the smaller rivers of Tennessee, it was perhaps inevitable that Chattanooga's industrial growth was concurrent with hydroelectric development.

NOTE:
My career of 45 years was working in various types of power plants here and at other locations, so once I read the name on the top elevation of the building, I became interested in its past.  I wish not to be named for or about this article.  I also read your article from 2002 (?) I just ask for some preservation of our past or History.
 
Save another landmark.

Local History Lover


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