Saturday, October 20, 2012

Garfield Park Power House

Nestled along the railroad tracks, in the northwest corner of Garfield Park stands the second of three projects that Joseph Silsbee designed for the park in 1896. The plant was designed to house dynamo generators that would power lighting for Garfield and Douglas Parks. It is a huge Flemish Revival structure that is approximately 150 feet long and 60 feet wide. It is made of buff-colored brick with stone trim. Gables are crowned with finely carved stone that records the year the structure was built. Similar elements once crowned the side dormers as well. It was topped with a clay tile roof.    
The original steel chimney stood 164 feet high and was carefully placed at the corner of the building. This structure hasn't fared much better than Silsbee's other masterpiece in Garfield Park, the Garfield Park Bandstand. The current chimney and an additional tower now conceal much of the southwest corner of the building. The setting of the building has also been compromised as its park-like landscaping was replaced with a sea of asphalt. One story additions around the structure further detract from its original picturesque appearance.    

J. L. Silsbee had a distinguished career in the design of utilitarian structures for industrial and railroad uses. Since his structures for Solvay Process and other steel and chemical companies are all demolished, this power house may be the only structure that survives for this type of use. It is a testament to his creativity and evidence of how these structures could be given the same artful attention as the finest homes that he designed.

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