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1893 Power Plant on Marshall Historic Home Tour

Photo: Google Street View
Photo: Google Street View

Chances are you didn’t even know that Marshall has a power plant on the Kalamazoo River that has been generating electricity for almost 125 years.   Here’s your chance to tour it!   The Marshall Power House is going to be a special feature of Marshall Historical Society‘s 53rd Annual Marshall Historic Home Tour September 10th and 11th.

The home tour will offer more than 20 sites including six residences from the 1800s. All are within easy walking distance of the Honolulu House Museum, 107 N. Kalamazoo Ave., which will be the center of home tour activities. Marshall’s rare 1856 Octagon house is on tour for the second consecutive year so visitors can see the progress that has been made in its restoration.

The Marshall Power House was constructed at a cost of $14,000 in 1893 on South Marshall Avenue and originally contained two waterwheel generators and two streetlight arc machines. The city also built a new dam on the Kalamazoo River that year. The city says Marshall has the third-oldest municipal hydroelectric system operating under its original ownership in the country.

Photo: Google Street View
Photo: Google Street View

The electric utility operation grew over the years requiring changes to the building and regular upgrades to equipment. In 1910, two larger waterwheels were added. In 1919, two more waterwheels and a larger belt-driven generator were and installed. The 1919 generator is still in use as is an old parts bin.

Ed Rice, director of electric utilities for the City of Marshall noted that, while the city’s hydroelectric system still operates, it produces only a tiny fraction of the city’s power needs. He says the city now does get 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources primarily from Ohio River hydroelectric plants.

Tour hours are 9am to 5pm Saturday, September 10th, and 10am to 5pm Sunday, September 11th. Parking is free downtown and at the Calhoun County Fairgrounds. There will be free shuttle buses to the power house and other locations. Tickets are $17 through Monday, September 5th, and will be $20 afterwards. Tickets are good for both days. For tickets or more information, go to www.marshallhometour.org or call (269) 781-8544.

In addition to the Octagon house, the residences on tour are an 1838 Greek Revival home that has had several additions, an 1853 Gothic Revival home with two listings on the Historic American Buildings Survey, an 1850s home that has been updated to 1890s Queen Anne style, an 1899 modified Queen Anne, and a two-apartment suite in an 1883 downtown business building.

There are eight museums on the tour. In addition to the Honolulu House, they are the Marshall Historical Museum at the GAR Hall, Capitol Hill School, the American Museum of Magic and its research center, the Marshall U.S. Postal Museum, the Governor’s Mansion and the Walter’s Gasoline Museum. Also on tour are Trinity Episcopal Church, the Franke Center for the Arts, EastEnd Studio and Gallery with its upper floors under restoration, and five historic buildings at the fairgrounds.

Other tour events are Art at the Museum, fine arts and crafts show, on the Honolulu House lawn and the 15th annual Civil War Ball on Saturday evening in front of the Honolulu House. Local churches are expected to offer lunches on tour days.

Ken Wirtz, Marshall Historical Society president, said, “Home tour visitors will get to see how Marshall residents live their daily lives in historically significant buildings. In addition to showing various architectural styles, the tour homes present antique and modern furnishings and a variety of decorative items including personal collections.”

This year Marshall is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its National Historic Landmark District that includes 850 structures in the central part of the city.

The Marshall Historic Home Tour began in 1964 and has grown into the longest-running home tour in the Midwest. The Marshall Historical Society uses the home tour proceeds to maintain and enhance its three museums and to support community efforts to preserve, protect and promote Marshall’s historic heritage.

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