Title Main Avenue Durango circa 1895

Main Street - Durango circa 1895. Catalog Number: 89.38.13


Durango’s first power plant opened in January 1887 on the north side of today’s 7th Street near the railroad tracks. Its primary customers were the smelters during the day.

Smelter Interior

Interior of a smelter in Durango around 1905. Taken by F.S. Balster. Catalog Number: 06.48.20

At night, homeowners could pay for electricity in advance, by subscription. Charges were based on the number of light fixtures and the time of service. Power was available at dusk and continued for a set time, based on the customer’s chosen plan. The least expensive option delivered power until 10:00. The most expensive plan offered power all night long. Power until midnight was a mid-priced choice. Before long, the plant was unable to meet the demand and a new plant was needed.

Exterior of 2nd Power Plant

Exterior of Durango’s second power plant as it appeared around 1910. Catalog Number:

Durango Electric Company Office around 1892

Durango Electric Company office, 700 block of Main Ave on the west side. Photo taken around 1892 by Gonner & Leeka. Catalog Number:

In 1893 Durango Light & Power Company built a new plant in the Mission Revival style, providing steam-generated alternating current. The plant was located at 14th street and today’s Camino del Rio. The plant provided power for commercial and residential use, as well as powering the 2 ½ mile streetcar to Animas City and street lights. Following a dispute about charges for street lighting, the Durango City Council sold the plant to Standard Light, Power and Water Company, who began daytime service in 1906. In 1913 the plant was transferred to the Western Colorado Power Company. The distinctive smokestack was added in 1948. At 100 feet, it was one of the tallest structures in the area. The plant finally closed in 1972.

Durango Steam Electric Station

Durango Steam Electric Station at 14th and Main around 1922. Catalog number: 96.21.2

After 79 years of continuous service, the plant sat vacant and boarded up until the City of Durango purchased the building in 1983. Through grant-funded restoration projects, the building was transformed to serve as the Powerhouse Science Center and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The plant burned coal, delivered by railcar on a spur to the boiler room entrance. The 60-cycle current was kept constant by taking generators on or off line to meet demand. The need for electricity was greatest on Christmas Eve because of all of the holiday cooking and festive lighting.

Western Power Storefront at Christmas

Western Power Company’s storefront on Main Avenue around 1920 at Christmas. Catalog Number: 89.38.7

The Standard Light, Power and Water Company was contracted by the City of Durango to provide street lighting. Per 1894’s city ordinance #276 arc lamps were to be kept burning “during the dark of the moon and on all cloudy nights.”

Main Ave Bridge at night

Night scene of the Main Avenue bridge taken by the Partridge Studio. Catalog Number: 00.1.1


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