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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Restoration of the Fulton Steam Plant

The plan to restore/renovate the Kent County Department of Public Works District Heating and Cooling Operations (DHCO) Fulton Steam Plant to its original 1923 architecture was completed and celebrated at a rededication ceremony held on December 9, 1998.

Fulton Steam Plant Color 1998

Kent County bought the DHCO from Consumers Power Company in 1986, and the next year ground was broken on the WTE (Waste to Energy) facility. Commercial operation at the facility began on February 1, 1990, and an underground steam main linked it to the Fulton Steam Plant; the facility provided additional steam capacity to the system that served the downtown area.

The site’s history as an energy facility goes back to the 19th century. On May 1, 1888, the Grand Rapids Edison Light and Fuel Company began operation on the Fulton Street site now occupied by the steam plant. It was one of 23 plants designed by the Edison Light Company and its three steam-powered engines were belted to direct current generators. The plant powered the city’s trolley cars, street lights, and helped support the rapid growth of the furniture industry.

Consumers Power Company acquired the operation in 1915, and in 1923 rebuilt the plant in two sections—a boiler room and turbine room. In the mid-1960s, four coal-fired boilers were retired and three gas/oil-fired boilers installed in their place. New steam mains were constructed to serve the new buildings in the Calder Plaza area and Butterworth Hospital. A fourth boiler was installed in 1970.

Renovations included masonry and concrete restoration, copper and tile restoration, total window replacement, roll-up service doors, relighting/fixture replacement, extensive exterior cleaning, and an exterior insulation finish. Work began in April, 1998, paused briefly for the West Michigan Grand Prix (the pit area was in front of the plant) and was completed in late November.

Participating in the restoration project were, the Christman Company, project management; Design Plus, renovation design and engineering; D.C. Byers, masonry and terra cotta restoration; Buist Sheet Metal, clay tile and copper restoration; Vos Glass, new windows; D & D Building, general contractors; JR Bouwkamp & Associates, exterior finish system; Windemuller Electric, electric; Patent Construction, scaffold systems; city of Grand Rapids, grant for exterior lighting improvements.

Excerpted from the Ogden Energy Update, Spring 1999

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