The building known as the Fort Collins Municipal Power Plant was constructed in 1936, in response to the city’s need to power through the financial hardships of the Great Depression by selling low-cost power to its residents.
Construction of the three-story power plant took place in 1935. The plant is located on the original site of the Old Camp Collins, the U.S. Cavalry Post established in 1864.
The building originally contained two coal-powered steam turbines within its almost 8,000 square-foot foundation. In addition, a landscaped grotto consisting of a waterway and collecting pool was also built, and was used as a part of the power plant’s cooling system. In 1937, an Art Deco terra cotta fountain, made up of a large obelisk with four fish and four gargoyles centered inside of a circular pool, was installed on the property.
Over the decades, various expansions took place, but eventually the power plant no longer served the community’s power needs and was decommissioned from service in 1973. The Fort Collins Municipal Power Plant, its grotto, and the Terra Cotta fountain are now designated as local historic landmarks. The building was deemed to have historical significance to Fort Collins, being the only Art Deco style industrial building that remained in the city. The fountain is the only remaining historic fountain within Fort Collins; in addition to its status as a rare example of terra cotta decorative construction, it also reflects a pivotal time in American history due to its construction as a part of the Works Projects Administration.
Since the early 1990’s, the building has housed the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory, transforming an empty municipal building into a center for innovative research, development, education and entrepreneurship. To support the research facility’s continued growth and celebrate its new incarnation as the Energy Institute, CSU recently expanded and transformed the original power plant building into a nearly 100,000 square-foot LEED Platinum Certified research complex known as the Powerhouse Energy Campus.
Watch this historic video from the early days of the Powerhouse, and hear Executive Director Bryan Willson talking about the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory. Click here to watch on YouTube.