Snake Creek Hydroelectric Power Plant
Built in 1910.
Location: N 40.54489 W 111.50296
Constructed In 1909-10, the Weber Station Hydroelectric Power Plant is located approximately ten miles southeast of Ogden, Utah. The plant consists of a powerhouse, reinforced-concrete dam (and related structures), concrete and steel conduit, and an operators’ camp, within which are two residences and four ancillary structures. Of the ten structures included in the plant site, eight are contributing and two non-contributing. One noncontributing structure—the conduit–has been left out of the district. Thus the historic district is made up of two discontinuous elements, the dam and the powerhouse site. Since its construction, the Weber powerhouse site and dam have sustained alterations, such as the removal of two residences. However, these changes do not compromise the overall integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. Weber Station continues to represent an early twentieth-century, medium-head hydroelectric power plant.
The Weber Station Hydroelectric Power Plant lies in a narrow stretch of Weber Canyon along the Weber River. Squeezed between the steep canyon wall and the river are three buildings and four outbuildings which comprise the plant site. Until the mid-1970s, a state highway directly above the site provided the northern boundary. Higher on the canyon wall, the Union Pacific Railroad tracks parallel the highway. In the 1970s, western-bound lanes of Interstate 84′ superceded the state highway and eastern lanes were constructed on the south side of the Weber River, effectively isolating the camp from direct highway access. Partial rock riprapping and newer metal supports stabilize the embankment behind the camp and below the Interstate. Similar rock riprapping forms a retaining wall along the river. Along the driveway through the camp are a line of shade trees and lights at the top of the rock wall. About 1.75 miles east and upstream from the powerhouse is the reinforced-concrete dam which diverts water into the conduit. On the south side of the dam are an intake house and dam tender’s residence, which partially sits over the concrete conduit.
Constructed in 1909-10, the powerhouse sits at the eastern edge of the plant site on the Weber River. Rectangular-shaped, this brick building has a concrete foundation and a gable, poured concrete roof. The concrete roof is supported on the inside by riveted steel Fink trusses. Along the roof ridge are three round metal ventilators and a metal structure carrying electrical lines. On the north and south facades are concrete capped, unevenly stepped parapet walls which extend above the gable ends. The west parapet has longer steps to compensate for an extension on the west side. Decorative brick work divides the east and west facades into five bays. Originally, the bays contained multipaned windows. However, after an interior fire in 1983, the windows were bricked in and some replaced with 2-light sliders or long 4-light slider windows, placed either vertically or horizontally and often screened. Concrete sills and lintels demarcate the window openings. The central bays on the east and west facades contain entrances. Although constructed with double wooden doors, the eastern bay now has a metal overhead door and screened metal gates. Facing the fenced substation yard, the western door has been altered with concrete block used to fill in the top of the door way. Above the door is a new overdoor with a shed roof and a bricked-in window. At the south end of the western facade are openings for transmission lines, now covered with plywood. Above these openings is a small gabled hood. The north and south facades are divided into three bays, filled originally with windows. Above the bays, in the gable ends, are painted signs reading, “Weber Station Utah Power & Light Co./ ‘Efficient Public Service.'” The north side has a central metal door with a fixed 1-light window above it. A metal ladder and protective cage provide access to the roof. The concrete foundation wall on the south facade extends to the river and contains a segmental arched opening for the tailrace as well as the relief valve pipe.
The interior of the powerhouse is divided into four principal areas. The main portion of the plant, roughly comprising the eastern two-thirds of its interior space, is devoted to housing the generating machinery. This apparatus includes one reaction type turbine (built by the Pelton Water Wheel Company) attached to a 2300 volt Western Electric generator. The turbine is controlled by a hydraulic oil governor. A small 125 volt d.c. generator serves as the exciter for the main generator. A bank of modern switches and gauges is located adjacent to the turbine-generator unit. A 20-ton capacity overhead travelling crane, built by the Whiting Foundry Equipment Company, services the power generation area. This area also includes a small, modern sound-proof room for plant operators. Rated capacity of the Weber plant is 3.3 megawatts.
The other third of the interior space is taken up by three rooms: the battery room, occupying the southwest corner of the building; a work room, occupying the northwest corner; and a high-tension room between these. The high-tension room no longer contains switches, bus bars, and transformer equipment, as these apparatus are now located outside, adjacent to the west side of the powerhouse.
Although the powerhouse has sustained some alterations, such as filled-in window bays, new windows and door alterations, the building still clearly conveys its historic style and function. Because the changes do not overwhelm the structure’s original appearance and because the powerhouse retains the majority of its integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association, it is a contributing element of the Weber Hydroelectric Power Plant Historic District.
(2) Transformer and Transmission Apparatus
This equipment consists of steel switchrack, transformers transmission towers and poles, all of modern construction switchrack and transformers are located adjacent to the powerhouse. Transmission towers and poles are situated around the powerhouse. The transformer and tran-smission apparatus are noncontributing elements of the Weber Hydroelectric Power Plant Historic District.
(3-8) Operators’ Camp
Once providing housing for four families, the operators’ camp now has only two residences. Three brick cottages were built at the the time of the plant’s construction, but two of them have since been demolished. The remaining brick western-most cottage (no. 3) is an irregularity~shaped, brick-veneer structure with asphalt-shingled hip roofs intersecting a central gable-on-hip roof and overhanging eaves. Sitting on a concrete foundation, the house has a central, interior, brick chimney and either 6/2 or 2/2 double hung windows with concrete sills under segmental arched brick lintels. The front, southern, entrance with a segmental arched lintel has a screened 6-light door and a shed roofed overdoor supported by wooden braces. On the north side is an addition with tongue-in-groove siding, a half-hip roof, 1/1 double hung windows—single and in sets of three—and a 1-light door. A window in the west facade has been removed and replaced with a 2- light slider. Behind this house is a sidewalk and along the rock terraced highway embankment, flowers have been planted. In front of the house are trees and shrubbery. A two-sided wooden shed with an asphalt-shingled shed roof stands just west of the house. As the one window replacement is the only alteration outside the district’s period of significance, the cottage retains its historic integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. This residence is a contributing element in the Weber Hydroelectric Power Plant Historic District.
A lawn with shade trees separates the brick residence and the remaining worker’s cottage. This area originally contained two brick dwellings–probably very similar to the existing brick cottage—which were removed in the mid-1970s.
Constructed in 1922, the easternmost cottage (no. 4) is a rectangular-shaped, wood-frame dwelling with an asphalt-shingled hip roof and broad overhanging eaves. Resting on a concrete foundation, the house has drop siding, a central interior brick chimney and exterior brick chimney on the north side. Most of the windows are 1/1 double hung, 2-light sliders or 3-lights in the basement but in the southeast corner are two 12-light windows forming a sunporch. The front, south, entrance has a 2-light door, concrete steps and an iron railing. On the west side is a screened door with concrete steps. A corrugated metal overdoor and a three-sided trellis protect the opening. Foliage obscures much of the south and west facades. Constructed as a single family residence, the building was at some point used as a duplex. The north facade confirms this as it contains two entrances. Both have concrete steps and iron railings but the screened east door is wood and the west opening has double 10-light French doors and double screen doors. A series of four 4-light casement windows extend along the east side of the eastern rear porch. Surrounding the south and east sides of the yard Is white picket fence. Directly across the driveway, near the river, Is a picnic area which Includes a concrete table and benches and a stone fireplace. Although this building has sustained some minor alterations outside the district’s period of significance, It retains Its historic Integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association and Is a contributing element In the Weber Hydroelectric Power Plant Historic District.
Near the driveway’s entrance onto Interstate 84 are a row of four outbuildings. All the one-story structures are of wood-frame construction with corrugated metal siding and roofing. Built before 1936, the eastern-most shed (no. 5) has a gable roof, 9- light fixed windows, double corrugated metal doors and a 6-light entrance in the west facade. The remaining three sheds (nos. 6,7,8) are all identical except that the western structure contains only a single garage bay while the others have two. These buildings had shed roofs, fixed 4-“light windows and corrugated metal garage doors facing north. The western one-bay garage (no. 8) was built in 1939, while the other two garages (nos. 6, 7) were constructed in 1923. Erected during the district’s period of significance and virtually unaltered, these four outbuildings retain their historic integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association and are all contributing structures to the Weber Hydroelectric Power Plant Historic District.
A 1936 UP&L site map of the Weber Development shows five outbuildings at the east end of the camp. It appears that a two bay garage/storage building and a 1923 barn located on the east end of the row have been removed. The 1936 map indicates that several other outbuildings on the north edge of the camp were also removed, possibly during construction of Interstate 84.
Other structures adjacent (but not actually ancillary) to the Weber hydroelectric plant include the diversion dam and trash racks of the Davis and Weber Canal Company, located just downstream from the powerhouse. These structures have no direct association with the Weber hydroelectric development.
The Weber dam is located about 1.75 miles upstream from the powerhouse. Basically, the dam is a reinforced concrete structure about 130 ft. long, including fishway, spillway, sluice gate, intake structure, and abutments. Access to the dam is provided by a road leading from a rest area for the east-bound lanes of the Interstate 84. 1-64 is situated on the north bank of the Weber River, adjacent to the dam. Hugging the south bank of the river, also adjacent to the dam, are double tracks of the Union Pacific Rail road.
The spillway portion of the dam features three massive concrete piers, each about 12 ft. tall. These three piers are evenly spaced, with one pier located mid way between the other two. Two steel tainter gates are set between the piers. The tops of the tainter gates are attached to cables, which in turn wrap around horizontal shafts mounted on top of the piers. By turning the shafts, the tainter gates are raised and lowered. The south gate is raised by a motor, but the north gate must still be raised by hand power. Crossing the tops of the piers, adjacent to the gateraising mechanisms, is a walkway consisting of steel grate resting on steel I-beams. A low chain link fence on either side of the walkway serves as a balustrade.
Situated between the north a fishway. or fish ladder. bank The integral to the dam, consisting compartments, about 3 ft. wide, of the river and the north pier is fishway is a concrete structure, of a series of stepped ascending from the downstream side of the dam and leading to the top of the dam. The fishway allows fish to move upstream or downstream past the dam without harm.
Between the south pier and the intake structure is a large wood sluice gate, which when completely lowered extends from the bottom of the dam to a height just below the top of the piers. The sluice gate is raised and lowered by a hand-powered worm gear. The sluice gate allows the reservoir behind the dam to be lowered rapid!y.
The conduit for the Weber Plant consists of two sections: the first is a 74 in. diameter reinforced concrete pipe that extends 125 ft. from the intake at the dam to a point where it connects to a welded steel pipeline which then continues to the Weber powerhouse downstream.
The Weber River Hydroelectric Power Plant Is eligible for the National Register under Criteria A, B. and C. Constructed between 1908 and 1910, the plant retains the distinguishing features of a early-twentieth century, medium-head hydroelectric development. At the turn-of-the-century, Utah’s urban centers expanded and increased the demand for municipal lighting and public transportation. Requiring more power to operate their electric urban railways and lighting systems, companies sought additional sources of hydroelectric generation. When the great railroad magnate E.H. Harriman bought Utah Light and Railway Company and began modernizing its operations, he ordered the construction of the Weber River power plant. The only remaining hydroelectric power plant built under Harriman’s authorization, the Weber River plant is significant for its association with E.H. Harriman. The Weber plant is also significant because it represents the organizational growth of the hydroelectric power industry in Utah. After the turn of the century, large electric power companies began to connect small, previously isolated power stations into widespread networks. Unlike earlier plants, Weber was built to operate as a component in an interconnected electric power system.
Between 1890 and 1910, a combination of factors led to the industrialization of Utah, especially to the urban settlements concentrated near the mouths of canyons on the west slope of the Wasatch Mountains. With industrialization came rapid urban growth which stimulated demands for the necessities of city living, such as public transportation and lighting. These urban improvements required electricity. By the 1890s, technological advancements allowed for the generation of relatively inexpensive electrical power which could be transmitted long distances. Stimulated by these improvements, power companies and entrepreneurs began acquiring hydroelectric power sites in the nearby canyons to supply electricity for electric streetcar systems, street lighting and domestic use. Numerous firms, mostly centered in Salt Lake City, Provo and Odgen, sprang up with their own power sources to compete for the urban market. By the late 1890s, the competition between the rival power companies stimulated a wave of corporate consolidations. In 1904, a second merger movement occurred, further narrowing the number of competing power companies.
One of the firms created in 1904 was the Utah Light and Railway Company (UL&RC). Formed from the merger of Utah and Light and Power and the Consolidated Railway and Power Company, UL&RC combined streetcar lines in Salt Lake City, electrical power and lighting companies, and gas lighting concerns in both Salt Lake City and Ogden. During the first year of its existence, UL&RC directors consolidated and improved the company’s electrical generating system to provide for the efficient transmission of power.
The firm also acquired the water rights for a hydroelectric station near Devil’s Gate in Weber Canyon. In the early 1900s, C.K. Bannister, an Ogden engineer involved in the construction of the Pioneer Power plant, had filed on Weber River water near Devil’s Gate. In 1900, Bannister began work on an intake structure, a preliminary step in constructing a hydroelectric plant. But, the Union Pacific Railroad, whose railroad bed lay directly adjacent the Weber River, obtained a temporary injunction against the work. Railroad officials apparently feared that a dam in the narrow canyon would harm the railroad bed. When Bannister died, his claims lapsed. Thomas D. Dee and David Eccles, who were associated with Bannister, then sold half of their interests in the site to the Utah Light and Railway Company. These two men were also in the Bonneville Power Company’s claim on the water rights but to what extent is unknown. All rights eventually transferred to E.W. Wade, trustee for the Utah Light and Railway Company and the Utah Construction Company. For several years, the construction company improved the site, expending $10,000 by 1906. Most of the work consisted of grading the south side of the river for the pipeline.
In 1906, E.H. Harriman, president of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, acquired control of Utah Light and Railway Company by purchasing sixty percent of the firm’s stock. The company name remained the same although the board of directors was reorganized and W.H. Bancroft, Harriman’s Rocky Mountain regional representative and vice-president/general manager of the Oregon Short Line, became president. With the purchase of UL&RC, Harriman hoped to create a model electric streetcar operation in Salt Lake City and took immediate steps to upgrade the system with new rails, transmission lines and equipment.
Forseeing the need for more electrical power, UL&RC’s new management built a steam plant on the Jordan River and moved to increase the capacity of the Pioneer plant by acquiring the unappropriated water in the Odgen River. This plan, however, met serious opposition as members of the public claimed that taking more water would drain the river during summer months. Company directors abandoned the idea and Harriman authorized the construction of a new hydroelectric plant at Devil’s Gate on the Weber River, rights to which he had received with UL&RC. At one time, Harriman may have hoped to electrify his railroad from Ogden to California and a plant in Weber Canyon directly adjacent to his Union Pacific line would have been advantageous to the idea.
At the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon is the Granite Hydroelectric Power Station, it was built in 1896 shortly after the Stairs Hydroelectric Power Plant just up the canyon from it.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
The Stairs Project was built in 1894-96 as the first hydroelectric power plant to provide electricity to Salt Lake City. It was also one of the first plants in Utah to transmit power long distance, using alternating current rather than direct current. In addition to the powerhouse, other elements of the historic complex include the dam, conduit, and penstock—all critical components of a hydroelectric plant. The power plant is ideally located to take advantage of the Stairs cascade on Big Cottonwood Creek.
During the late nineteenth century, a combination of technological developments, capitalist enterprise, and economic demands led to the creation of Utah’s hydroelectric power industry. Small utility companies around the state built water power plants to generate electricity, mostly for streetcar systems, mines, and other industries. Cities and small towns also consumed power for municipal, commercial, and domestic use. By the early twentieth century, a merger and consolidation movement among Utah’s utilities culminated in the formation of the Utah Power & Light Company (UP&L). In 1989, UP&L merged with PacifiCorp, an Oregon corporation, which continues to operate the Stairs Project.
Constructed In 1894-1695, Stairs Hydroelectric Power Plant, is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City. The plant consists of a powerhouse, switchyard, darn, pipeline, standpipe, and penstock, as well as a few ancillary structures. Five of these features are contributing and three are non-contributing. Since its construction, Stairs has sustained alterations, such as the reconstruction of its original dam, changes to the standpipe,
removal of the operator’s camp, and replacement of the brick parapet around the top of the powerhouse. These alterations, however, do not compromise the plant’s overall integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. Stairs Station is still an outstanding example of a high-head hydroelectric plant dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Stairs Station is located approximately eight miles southeast of Salt Lake City, Utah in Big Cottonwood Canyon along state highway number 152. Stairs Station is about two and one-half miles upstream from the Granite Power Plant, and is surrounded by the Wasatch National Forest. Lying in a narrow part of the the Stairs powerhouse is squeezed between the highway, about 15 feet to the north, and Big Cottonwood Creek to the south. Moving
in a westerly fashion, the creek flows past the powerhouse and pools behind a dam just below the plant which diverts water for the Granite Hydroelectric Power Plant. An asphalt driveway provides access to the highway on the west side of the station, crosses a wooden bridge over Big Cottonwood Creek and enters a flat area used as a recreation and picnic site. This open space is lined with shade trees as is the driveway into the plant. Originally a shop/garage stood where now picnic tables are circled
around a fire pit. The recreation area was almost totally rebuilt after a major flood destroyed the previous facility in the early 1980s. To the east of the picnic area and sand volleyball pit are the foundations of two operators’ houses, today almost covered with vegetation. These homes have been removed. Steep canyon walls rise behind the recreation area, to the south.
The only original remaining building at the Stairs Station is, powerhouse. Constructed in 1895, this structure reflects the Second Renaissance Revival architectural style. A two-story, rectangular-shaped brick structure, the powerhouse has a concrete foundation and an asphalt, slightly gabled roof with a concrete capped parapet wall rising above it. Corbelled brick belt courses extend around the structure at top of the first story and below
the parapet wall. The building’s facades are divided into bays by pilaster strips which on the north and south facades contain starshaped tire rod anchors. The north and south facades are divided into 7 bays, each containing a single window or pair of 2/2 double hung windows with a brick -corbelled semi-circular arched lintel in the first and second stories. The lower portion of windows on the first story have heavy metal screens.
On the north side of the building is a substation/switchyard enclosed in a cyclone fence. This facade has an entrance to the substation yard that has a 2-light transom over a wooden door and screen door in the westernmost bay. The central bay has a sign reading “The Big Cottonwood Power Co./Stairs Station 1895” which is lit with globed lights on metal brackets fastened on either side of the sign. Both the east and west facades are
divided by pilasters into 3 bays. she side bays contain single windows. The central bay has a pair of windows over an entrance with a brick corbelled semi-circular arched lintel, an arched wooden transom and a pair of wooden doors. The eastern entrance retains the original transom window of 6-lights radiating around central semi-circular shaped light.
Water both enters and leaves the power plant on the building’s south side. A metal receiver pipe for the penstock runs the length of the facade, bringing water to the turbines. Segmental arched openings in the foundation wall allow the waste water to enter the tail race, which the receiver pipe and into Big Cottonwood Creek.
Since construction, the Stairs powerhouse exterior alterations. A new parapet wall has sustained only minor and concrete cap similar to the original has been added and new bricks have replaced deteriorating bricks. As the new brick is harder and darker in color, it is noticeable, especially in the southeast corner. These alterations, however, do not overwhelm the building’s original architectural style.
The interior of the Stairs powerhouse retains a level of integrity roughly compatible with its exterior, although some changes have been made over the years. The ground floor of Stairs powerhouse is the location of all generating equipment. Originally, the plant included four Pelton wheels attached to generators. These now have been replaced by one turbine-generator unit made up of a Francis reaction-type turbine (built by S. Morgan Smith) attached to a Westinghouse 2,300 volt a.c. generator, with field supplied by a General Electric 125 volt d.c. exciter. The unit has a
capacity of about of about 1.2 megawatts. The turbine operates on a head of about 357 feet. Transmission equipment at Stairs is now mostly outside the powerhouse. The ground floor of the building, however, still includes a massive, air-cooled Westinghouse step-up transformer. The air cooling equipment, including a fan, is still in place. Other equipment at the ground-floor level Station includes a modern switchboard, a sound-proof batteries, and an original 10-ton overhead traveling probably built by the Silver Brothers of Salt Lake City.
The second floor of the Stairs powerhouse is largely empty. This space originally housed transformers, bus bars, and switching equipment. The second floor is now used for storage of odd materials and tools. A few small machines, such as a drill press, are also still in place. Toward the west end of the second floor there is a wood balustrade with a small opening to allow passage. The purpose of this balustrade is unknown. Between the balustrade and the west wall there is a rectangular opening in the floor
which allows ventilation for the ground floor and which is used to hoist materials between floors. Other than the features mentioned here the second floor is empty.
The ceilings over the first and second floors of the Stairs powerhouse feature a design similar to the ceiling of the Granite powerhouse. The Stairs powerhouse ceilings first consist of steel beams laid crosswise between the north and south powerhouse walls. The areas between the beams are filled with arched brick vaults, covered with plaster, which extend over the length of the building.
Stairs powerhouse has sustained a number of alterations since its construction. A new parapet wall has been installed. The original turbine-generator units have been replaced. Transformers have been moved outside, leaving the second floor empty. Overall, however, the powerhouse still appears much as it did about ninety years ago. Moreover, the powerhouse is still a key part of a basically intact, functioning, high-head hydroelectric plant. Stairs, despite its alterations, still retains integrity of
location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. The powerhouse is a contributing feature of the historic district.
The Stairs transmission equipment, consisting of modern switchrack and transformers, is now located outside the building, on its north side, between the building and Utah Highway 152. The switchrack does not contribute to the historic district.
Storm Mountain Dam
Big Cottonwood Creek water for Stairs Station is impounded behind Storm Mountain Dam, located about one half mile above the powerhouse in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The dam is situated in a natural basin at the head of a cascade called “the Stairs,” which over a quarter mile section drops 200 ft. Storm Mountain Dam is an earth-fill structure faced on its upstream side with concrete. The dam is approximately 500 ft. in length and is approximately 10-20 ft. tall. About the northern two-thirds of the dam is
straight, lying on a north-south axis. However, the rest of the dam angles toward the southeast. This portion of the dam has a reinforced concrete spillway about 35 ft. wide and 20 ft. tall on the downstream side. The spillway includes a flashboard gate system. Flashboards are set horizontally between steel I-beams supported by steel stanchions. A walkway made of wood planks, with steel posts and cables for a handrail, is perched on top of
the flashboard structure. The southerly end of the dam abuts a rock outcropping. The north end of the dam abuts the north side of Big Cottonwood Canyon. The intake at Storm Mountain Dam is located at about the middle of the dam, adjacent to its straight section, about 10 feet from its upstream face. The intake is a reinforced concrete structure with a valve and trashrack. The intake is enclosed by a small wood-frame shed covered with corrugated metal.
Storm Mountain Dam in its present configuration was built in 1921. The dam actually no longer functions. A small amount of water pools behind the dam, but Utah Power and Light no longer maintains a reservoir. The dam was officially retired in ca. 1955-1958, apparently because water impounded behind it somehow became unsuitable for Salt Lake City’s Big Cottonwood Treatment Plant located near the mouth of the canyon, just below the Granite hydroelectric plant.
Other features at Storm Mountain Dam include portions of low retaining wall adjacent to the former reservoir area. These low walls, 1-3 ft. tall, consist of rubble and concrete. The walls are most visible on either side of Big Cottonwood Creek where Utah Highway 152 crosses the stream just eas-t of Storm Mountain Dam.
As originally constructed in the 1890s, Storm Mountain Dam consisted of a curved, earth fill-structure, roughly situated on an east-west axis adjacent to the position of the current dam. A spillway, cut into bedrock, was located at the east end of this dam. A drain tunnel was bored through rock just east of the dam. The original dam created a much larger reservoir than the dam. The low retaining walls described above may have been associated with the original dam. Otherwise, the principal features of the original dam are no longer visible.
Storm Mountain Dam, as built in 1921, has sustained little alteration. Some weathering of the dam has occurred, such as the cracking and flaking of the upstream concrete face. Otherwise, storm mountain dam retains integrity of setting, location, feeling, association, design, materials, and workmanship. Storm Mountain Darn is a contributing feature in the Stairs Station Historic District.
Water entering the Storm Mountain Dam intake is first carried west through a welded steel pipe about 1,200 ft. long. Roughly the western half of the steel pipeline lies in a tunnel that was bored through a rock formation that extends from the north side of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Both ends of this tunnel have been closed with concrete, so the interior of the tunnel is not visible. Between the dam and the tunnel, the pipeline lies underground except for a short section just before it enters the tunnel. However, the
course of the pipeline is apparent because earth was merely deposited over the pipeline so that it now appears as a long, low mound lying between the dam and the tunnel. After exiting the west end of the tunnel, the pipeline is now visible because Utah Power and Light has recently replaced a section of it between the tunnel and the top of the penstock. The original conduit, erected in the mid-1890s, was probably either replaced or renovated in
1921, at the time Storm Mountain Dam was built. Therefore, the conduit component of Stairs Station best represents the historic associations of a 1921 date.
Except for miner alteration, the steel pipeline conduit retains integrity of setting, location, feeling, materials, association, design, and workmanship. The conduit contributes to the historic district.
The penstock is original, and was fabricated by Fraser and Chalmers of Chicago. It consists of a riveted steel pipe approximately 1,750 ft. in length. At its top, the penstock has a 50 in. diameter and is made of steel 1/4 in. thick. The penstock gradually decreases in diameter and increases in thickness as it descends toward the powerhouse. At the bottom, the penstock has a 49 in. diameter and is made of steel 1/2 in. thick. The penstock above ground except for about the last 150 ft., which now lies underneath Utah Highway 152. The Stairs penstock is a particularly well-preserved and visible (except for about the last 150 ft.) example of a late-1890s penstock.
The Stairs Station penstock maintains integrity of design, setting, workmanship, location, feeling, materials, and association. The penstock is a contributing feature of the historic district.
At the top of the penstock is a steel standpipe, built in 1939. The standpipe structure rests on a concrete block which is located at the point where the steel pipeline meets the top of the penstock. The top half of the standpipe was recently added by Utah Power and Light. Because of this recent addition, the standpipe no longer retains integrity of materials and design. It does not contribute to the Stairs Station Historic District.
Other structures at the Stairs Station include a small, concrete block outhouse with a flat metal-covered roof and a wooden door which sits just north of the powerhouse. East of the powerhouse. is a rock-terraced opening which extends into the hillside. This wass the original oil shed (no. 7), but is currently unused because it has partially collapsed. Despite the collapse the oil shed from the outside appears Intact. The oil shed still retains overall integrity of location, design, materials, workmanship,
setting, feeling, and association. It is a contributing element of the historic district. Similar rock terracing as was used for the oil shed acts as riprap along the highway embankment just north of the powerhouse. Adjacent to the powerhouse and crossing Big Cottonwood Creek is a modern bridge (no. 8) which provides access to the UP&L picnic grounds. This is a modern structure made of steel with a wood deck and concrete abutments. It is a
non-contributing feature of the historic district.
Stairs Station is historically significant under Criteria A and Under Criterion A, Stairs Station is historically significant within a statewide context because of its association with the first long-distance transmission of alternating current in Utah Built in 1894-1896, in 1896 Stairs Station generated a.c. power and transmitted it over a 14-mile line to a substation in Salt Lake City. This inaugurated the widespread use in Utah of a.c. power generated from hydroelectric stations. Within a local context, Stairs Station is significant under Criterion A as the first hydroelectric power plant to supply electricity to Salt Li City. Utah’s largest urban/industrial center. Under Criterion <: Stains Station is significant within a local context because it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a late nineteenth century hydroelectric power plant (with later modifications). Situated in Big Cottonwood Canyon of the Wasatch range, Stairs Station’s engineering features were ideally suited to its mountainous setting. Power companies built numerous high-head plants in Utah during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They were the most efficient type of hydroelectric technology for generating power on Utah’s relatively small mountain streams.
Engineer Robert M. Jones originated the idea for Stairs Station, designed the facility, supervised its construction, and formed a company to oversee its operation. Jones was an experienced technician who had worked as a surveyor and mining engineer throughout the West, including New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. He also had assisted in the organization of the Laramie (Wyoming) Electric Light Company and had supervised the construction of its generating station. In 1889, Jones worked on the installation of electrical equipment for the Salt Lake City Railway. His acquaintance with the Salt Lake City area led him to consider the feasibility of establishing a hydroelectric plant on one of the numerous streams that emerged from the Wasatch Mountains just east of Salt Lake City. Certainly the Salt Lake area offered a prime market for electricity
generated from such a station. Jones scouted the canyons along the Wasatch range, and in September 1891 he located appropriation for water from Big Cottonwood Creek, known as the Stairs.
Jones then set about developing the site. In 1893, he applied for a franchise from Salt Lake to furnish electricity to the city. He also led a group of citizens to the proposed power site and told them of his plan. But Jones met with failure as the mayor vetoed the council’s approval of his franchise. Undaunted, Jones tried again. In support of his cause, he submitted a petition bearing the signatures of 126 Salt Lake City businessmen. The council then passed the franchise over the mayor’s veto. Several months later, in December 1893, Jones organized the Big Cottonwood Power Company. Officers included president John W. Donnellan, vice president W.H. Rowe, secretary George M. Cannon, and treasurer George M. Downey. In 1894, workers employed by the Big Cottonwood Power Company began erecting the plant, but work was frequently halted because of construction difficulties and quarrels over water rights. In June 1895, the Big Cottonwood
Power Company found some investors in the East and construction work continued. Stairs Station was finally completed in May 1896 it a cost of $325,000.
Stairs Station was an outstanding example of a small, late nineteenth-century high-head plant. Jones had chosen an ideal site for the facility. The location of the dam at the top of the Stairs and the sharp drop in elevation (350 ft. in about 1/4 mile at the site provided a high head for the turbines. Of equal importance, the short distance of the Stairs cascade necessitated only a minimum expenditure of materials and energy for the construction of a pipeline and penstock. In contrast, many highhead facilities had lengthy water delivery systems that were expensive to build and maintain (the wood flume and steel penstock for Granite Station, for instance, totaled about 1.75 miles in length.)
While construction of Stairs Station was underway, the Big Cottonwood Power Company looked for customers to purchase electricity from the plant. In January 1895, the company signed an agreement with the Salt Lake and Ogden Gas and Electric Light Company to supply the latter with power, purchased wholesale. Apparently the Salt Lake and Ogden Company’s steam plant, located In the business section of downtown Salt Lake City, had drawn the Ire of the local citizenry because It polluted the air. By drawing power from Stairs Station, the Salt Lake and Ogden Company hoped to abate the smoke problem caused by Its coal-fired facility. But before Big Cottonwood Power could begin generating electricity, competition between the two companies arose. Big Cottonwood Power entered a bid for the Salt Lake City municipal street lighting contract, which the Salt Lake and Ogden Company wanted to keep. Apparently the ensuing squabble between the firms led to the nullification of their earlier contract.
Potential competition from power companies outside the Salt Lake area soon brought Big Cottonwood Power and the Salt Lake and Ogden Company back together. 3y 1895, L.L. Nunn of Provo and the Pioneer Electric Power Company of Ogden threatened to build lines to Salt Lake. Out of self-defense, the Big Cottonwood Power Company and the Salt Lake and Ogden Company entered Into another agreement. A contract, dating from about June 188£, stipulated that Big Cottonwood Power would supply the Salt Lake and Ogden Company with electricity for ten years. R.F. Hayward, general
manager of the Salt Lake and Ogden Company, supervised the construction of a transmission line, made of wood poles, from Stairs to a substation in Salt Lake City. Stairs Station began sending power over the 10,000 volt line on 2 June 1896. Stairs was the first hydroelectric power station to supply electricity to Salt Lake City. The transmission was the first in Utah to use
alternating current over a long distance.
Big Cottonwood Power Company remained an independent business for
only a short while. By 1897, owners of recently built hydroelectric power plants, including Stairs and Pioneer, instead of competing against each other merged their companies into one firm, the Union Light and Power Company. In 1899, Union Light and Power underwent reorganization and was renamed Utah Light and Power. Shortly thereafter, Utah Light and Power began operating the Pioneer, Stairs, and Granite plants in conjunction with each other. As part of an integrated system, these plants served Salt Lake City and Ogden as well as a number of smelters south of Salt Lake. In 1904, Utah Light and Power merged with Consolidated Railway and Power to form Utah Light and Railway. Ten years later, in 1914, Utah Light and Railway and the Salt Lake Light and Traction Company merged to form Utah Light and Traction. In 1915, Utah Light and Traction came under the management of Utah Power and and Light Company.
Since UP&L acquired Stairs Station, a number of changes have been made to the facility. Most importantly, in 1921 UP&L built Storm Mountain Dam, replacing the original structure which had rendered poor service because cf its porosity. The construction of Storm Mountain Dam reflected UP&L’s overall goal during the 1910s and 1920s of improving existing hydroelectric power plants so that each could function as a more reliable, efficient component in a huge network of electrical generating facilities. Another major alteration made to Stairs Station involved the replacement (date
unknown) of the original generators and Pelton wheels with another
unit featuring a Francis reaction turbine. Finally, at an undetermined date the company demolished the operator’s quarters the stat Despite these changes, the major technological components of Stairs Station the dam, conduit, penstock, powerhouse, remain essentially intact. Thus they still
represent the historic associations of the period of significance and they still exhibit the important characteristics of an early high-head hydroelectric plant.
This plaque marks the site of the first 44,000 volt hydroelectric plant in America. Built in 1897 by Lucien L. Nunn at an estimated cost of just $50,000, this plant harnessed the power of the Provo River to generate electricity and transmit that power over a distance of 32 miles to mining operations in Mercur, Utah. This was almost three times the voltage of any existing line in the nation at that time, and was by far the longest.
Although Nunn sold his interests to Utah Power and Light Company in 1913, his innovative ideas and successes helped shape the future of electrical power for all of us.
Nunns Park is named after L.L. Nunn, a pioneer in the field of hydroelectric power, who became the operator of the first 44,000 volt hydro-power plant in America harnessing the flows of the Provo River. Built on this site in 1897, the plant provided electricity for mining operations near Mercur, Utah. In time, Nunn sold his interests to Utah Power and Light, who eventually sold the ground to Utah County as a park site. Located alongside the Provo River Parkway and nestled in a grove of trees, Nunn’s Park offers overnight camping, picnicking, fishing, biking, jogging, and just plain escape from the traffic of life. There are plenty of family campsites on a first come, first serve basis; a pavilion can be reserved for family or group use; there are open areas just right for contemplating nothing but your favorite pastime. If you look, there are even a few reminders of the century old power plant that once turned the lights on in a remote Utah mining town and put Utah and the Provo River in the electrical history books. Public parking is limited and there is absolutely no parking on the state road or outside the county park. Groups with reservations cannot limit the public parking to only members of their group. Groups exceeding allowed parking will be asked to leave and no refund will be given.(text from utahcounty.gov)
Let There Be Light
The Olmsted Power Plant, a historic structure, was constructed in 1904 by a predecessor to Rocky Mountain Power and is still in use today. The plant generates power from water diverted from the Provo River. During the last 100 years, water has reached the plant by both wooden flume and steel pipeline.