Just in the nick of time

Old Arkansas Power and LIght Company building being demolished

The old Arkansas Power and Light Company generating plant in my home town is not for long. The yellow Caterpillar will win. These are the last shots of this structure.

The old building was hatched-up, built, equipped, occupied and put into use for a very specific purpose: to generate electricity for the good folks in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in the first quarter of the 20th century. Evidence supports the theory that it did just that and did it well for a long time, but at some time, it stopped.

Old power plant

Click the pic to see more of the old power plant.

I’m not certain when the last person left the building and turned off the lights, but I do know why. Someone found a better and more efficient way to send electricity to the folks in Pine Bluff — and it was lights out for the old plant operationally. Now it is lights out for good.

And after all, if your lights come on and your fan blows, knowing the source of the juice that does the trick really does not pique one’s curiosity.

Speaking of curiosity, you can learn more about the how and why of this shoot and see three more pictures on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here while you look.

Train in front of old power plant

During the shoot, a train came through and who among us does not like to take pictures of trains. Certainly not me.

I had procrastinated on getting these images for decades, after all, where are two giant smoke stacks and an old power plant going to go? As I pointed out on our Corndancer story this week, some mysterious urge sent me to the old power plant in April where I got the first shots in morning light. When I came back for my afternoon shots just over a month later, the Caterpillar had started its grisly task.

November 30, 2014 update

The building has been completely demolished now for several months. I set up the camera in approximately (best-guess) the same spot, waited a bit for a train and grabbed the shot below to let you see how it looks now.

Train passing smoke stacks left from old Arkansas Power and Light Co, generating plant demolition.
Here’s how the site looks today. The landowner spared the stacks indefinitely. They stand as a reminder of how things used to be. We are grateful they are still standing. The round-topped thingamajig in the background is part and parcel of a plant operated by Liberty Utilities, the nice folks who provide clean water for our city.

Back to the original story

Old Arkansas Power and Light generator plant before demolition

I shot this in the crappy light available on April 13. As you can see, the building is unscathed. But not for long.

Partially demolished Arkansas Power and Light generation plant

The west end of the building was formerly here. Now twisted structural members are all that is left.

curved door way in building under demolition

The old structure is full of the old architectural details (temporarily), admired by many, including yours truly.

Twisted structural steel members

From the looks of things, in the custom of the time, the structural steel elements were riveted together. Now that the walls have come tumblin’ down, we see evidence of some field expedient engineering when something was added later.  Look at the old square nuts.

And last but certainly not least, for those of you who have always wondered what it looks like inside a big ol’ smoke stack, through the magic of digital presentation, we are making the revelation here and know. You saw it here first!

Looking inside old smoke stack
Looking inside the west smoke stack. It appears to be three end-to-end bricks thick encapsulated in a thick application of concrete. In “Southern engineering” rminology, that sucka’ is some kinda’ stout.


Not questioning providential prodding, I am grateful to the Higher Power that sent me to the old building before it was too late. To tell the truth, there was some previous prodding, but in my human frailness, I resisted. Have I learned my lesson? We’ll see.

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.


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