Smokestacks are coming down piece by piece at power plant Gould Street landmarks spark little nostalgia as 2-month project begins

August 29, 1996|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

Since 1927, the twin black smokestacks of the Gould Street Power Plant were daytime beacons to ship captains and Baltimore drivers, a sign that the city -- home -- wasn't far off.

Yesterday was the beginning of the end for the landmarks. Shortly after 11 a.m., workers hired by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. sliced and then lifted a 35,000-pound section off its base and onto a barge bound for a scrap metal company.

Custom crane required

To remove the steel and concrete section -- 240 feet above McComas Street at its highest point -- they needed a 300-foot-tall crane that took two weeks to build.

Within two months, both smokestacks will be gone, at an estimated cost of $300,000, said BGE spokeswoman Nancy H. Caplan. The removal is being done gingerly, and without explosives, to protect the plant and the sensitive AT&T Corp. telecommunications equipment housed on a nearby boat.

While BGE's dismantling of the South Baltimore gas holders and the Westport Power Plant have sparked fits of nostalgia, residents and workers say they think little of the smokestacks' passage.

"I'm glad the smokestacks are going," said Bill Raines, a construction inspector who has worked at the site for 20 years. "I think it will beautify the plant and the skyline around here."

Not many remember

"There's just not many people around who worked on this, who remember the smokestacks when they were in service," said Bruce Barnaba, the plant manager.

Still, the stacks, which spewed smoke from Units 1 and 2, had such staying power that they outlived their usefulness by nearly 20 years. BGE took them out of service in 1977.

The original plant at the corner of Gould and McComas streets dates to the late-19th century, according to BGE. In 1907, BGE forerunner Consolidated Gas Electric Light and Power Co. acquired the place, closed it and shipped parts to a silver mine in Mexico.

In 1925, the company decided to re-establish the plant, and fitted it with what was then an advanced coal-burning system, which included the smokestacks. Unit 1, which included the first smokestack, began operating in 1927, and Unit 2 was working a year later.

'State of the art'

British engineer H. L. Guy hurried to Baltimore to see what was considered a marvel, the first plant in the city to use pulverized coal to create electricity. He reportedly said, with a scientist's admiration: "Nowhere else had there been achieved as perfect a balance between capital expenditure and operating cost in a coal-burning electric generating station."

"It was state of the art technology back then," Barnaba said.

Nearly 70 years later, Gould Street's Unit 3 still produces electricity at peak times, such as hot summer days, when BGE's normal capacity isn't enough to power the Baltimore area, Caplan said. The building that housed Units 1 and 2 will be fixed up and used for storage, she said.

Pub Date: 8/29/96

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