Thursday, April 25, 2024

Lighting up the past

Exploring the marvels of the old Granbury Light Plant

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Imagine a place where history and technology collide, frozen in time like a secret treasure waiting to be discovered. Well, you don’t have to imagine it – the Old Granbury Light Plant is just such a place! Tucked away just a short walk from the Historic Granbury Square at 510 Ewell Street (just behind the Granbury Post Office), this old marvel takes us back to the early 20th century, when industrial and technological advancements like big engines and power plants were the talk of the town.

Although Thomas Edison had established the first electrical utility in New York in 1882, progress at that time happened very slowly, especially in the more rural areas, which was most of the nation at that time. Granbury was no different. There actually was an opportunity for Granbury to have an electric plant as early as 1899; however, for reasons still unknown today, the Granbury City Council chose not to take advantage of the opportunity.

But change was definitely looming on the horizon. In the early 1900s, cities with electric lights, telephone service, and more were thriving. The editor of the Granbury News had a dream for the city: to have electric lights and waterworks just like those more prominent cities. By early 1923, the idea of Granbury having its own water system and electric power plant had reached consensus. In May of 1923, the Granbury Water, Ice, Light and Power Co., as it was known at the time, was purchased by the city of Granbury. Life, as it was known then, was about to change!

Fairbanks Morse, a leader in the industrial field, wove its magic into the plant’s original technology when it was built in 1923. There were three enormous Fairbanks Morse generating units working together, producing a total of 303 kilowatts of power. That’s like having enough energy to light up 100 homes today! That may not seem like much by today’s standards, but in 1923, it was life changing.

In a 1991 interview with Hood County News Reporter Suzanne McMinn, long-time electric plant operator Weldon Newman said he could remember when one unit at the old electric plant could provide enough power to satisfy the entire Granbury community at night. “After about 11 at night, when most everybody went to bed, it would generate enough current until about 5 a.m.,” said Newman. “When people would start getting up, we’d crank up another unit.”

The new plant was like a fortress of power, with its fireproof natural stone building and a tough corrugated iron roof held up by solid steel trusses. During World War 2, the plant’s windows were painted a grayish-blue color to prevent the electrical plant from being spotted from the air by Japanese warplanes at night. As the city’s needs grew, the plant was upgraded to keep up with the demands of a growing community. In 1949, the city started getting power from the Brazos Electric Cooperative, using the plant only when the cooperative faced problems. This little treasure of a plant soldiered on through the 1960s.

Granbury owes a debt of gratitude to Newman and former Granbury mayor Hugh Raupe, who tended to the plant for many years. These heroes, among others, ensured that the plant’s heart kept beating. Fast forward to 1991, and thanks to their efforts, the plant was up and running again. Today, the Granbury Flywheelers, part of the National Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association, are the keepers of this time capsule.

So, there you have it – the tale of the Old Granbury Light Plant. A place where history, technology, and dreams intersect. It’s like stepping into a time machine, where you can almost hear the hum of the generators and feel the excitement of a city coming alive with light. So, next time you’re in the area, make sure to pay a visit to this living relic from a bygone era.

Old Granbury Light Plant