LV116 Chesapeake & The Pratt Street Power Plan
June 7, 2018
Another common sight while visiting downtown Baltimore is The Lightship Chesapeake and the PowerPlant Live.
The Pratt Street Power Plant
Also known as the Pier Four Power Plant, The Power Plant, "Pratt Street Toenail", and Pratt Street Station — is a historic former power plant located in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, USA. It has undergone significant repurposing development since retirement and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
The structure is a 132-by-326-foot complex of three buildings located at Pratt Street and Pier 4 at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The structures are brick with terra cotta trim and steel frame construction. It was built between 1900 and 1909 and is a massive industrial structure with Neo-Classical detailing designed by the architectural firm of Baldwin & Pennington. It was one of only 11 buildings in the zone of the Baltimore Fire of 1904 to survive that event.
It served as the main source of power for the United Railways and Electric Company, a consolidation of smaller street railway systems, that influenced the provision of citywide transportation and opened up suburban areas of Baltimore to power its electric street railway in the city. It later served as a central steam plant for the Consolidated Gas, Electric Light and Power Company, a predecessor of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company.
The boilers were coal-fired, and the plant's location on the harbor allowed easy delivery of coal by ship. The location also provided access to cooling water for the condensers, with intake on one side of the pier and discharge on the other.
The plant, with by-then obsolete equipment, was used sparingly until it was returned to service to meet the World War II production demand for electricity.Baltimore Gas & Electric finally ceased use of it in 1973.
After the electric plant was retired from service, the building was vacant several years, eventually becoming acquired by the City of Baltimore. It has since been redeveloped and repurposed for a variety of commercial projects.
The first two attempts at redevelopment - an indoor Six Flags theme park named Six Flags Power Plant (1985–1989) and a short-lived dance club called P.T. Flagg's (1989–1990) - were not successful. Since that time, other projects have had more success. The Power Plant's more recent tenants have included the first ESPN Zone in the country (opened July 11, 1998; closed June 2010 and replaced by Phillips Seafood), Hard Rock Cafe (opened July 4, 1997), Barnes & Noble, Gold's Gym (closed early 2010; and replaced by Pandion Performance Center in June 2015), and loft offices. Maryland Art Place, a contemporary art gallery for Maryland artists, is located in the northwest corner. It lends its name to the nearby Power Plant Live! nightlife complex. In November 2011, the former ESPN Zone space was filled by Phillips seafood restaurant, which moved from its longtime location inside Harborplace.
The Cordish Company has its headquarters on the sixth floor. Cordish also developed the adjacent Pier IV building, whose tenants include Family Meal (a contemporary-diner restaurant by Bryan Voltaggio), Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Dick's Last Resort.
Lightship 116 Chesapeake
When Lightship 116 "Chesapeake" was completed in 1930, she was among the most modern and capable ships in use with the US Lighthouse Service. Part of the vessel class of Lightship No.100, Lightship 116 was constructed from a standard design and boasted the best in stability, signaling capacity, living accommodations, and engineering efficiency then available.
Lightship 116 was built in South Carolina at the Charleston Machine and Drydock Company at a cost of $274,424. The new vessel featured an efficient diesel-electric power-plant (superseding earlier steam powered designs), all-steel construction, and impressive signaling equipment capable of marking her station in all kinds of weather and light conditions. Electricity for the ship's propulsion motor, lighting and machinery was supplied by four 75-kilowatt diesel engine/generator units located in the engine room. Her signaling apparatus consisted of a 13,000 candlepower electric beacon lamp atop each mast (later consolidated on the aft mast), an electric foghorn (later replaced with a compressed-air diaphone), radio beacon, and fog bell mounted on the main deck. The ship was equipped with two 5,000-pound mushroom anchors (one main and a spare) designed to hold her on station in all but the roughest weather.
Lightship 116 was designed for a crew of up to 16 - though normally several were away on shore leave at any given time. Crew accommodations included two-man staterooms for the enlisted men, a crew's mess, and an electrically powered galley and refrigerator unit (a major advancement for 1930). Officers (1st and 2nd Officer, Engineer and Assistant Engineer) had their own staterooms adjacent to their mess (dining room), and the Captain, or Master as he was called in the Lighthouse Service, occupied his own stateroom immediately behind the pilothouse.
The US Lighthouse Service first assigned Lightship 116 to the Fenwick Island Shoal (DE) Station from 1930-33; after that assignment she marked the entrance to Chesapeake Bay until the beginning of World War II. During the war most coastal lightships were withdrawn for security reasons and were often converted for wartime duties. During 1942-45 Lightship 116 was painted battleship gray, armed with two 20mm cannons, and used as a patrol/inspection vessel near the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. In 1945, Lightship 116 returned to the waters off Cape Henry (VA) where her bright red hull, beacon light and "Chesapeake" station designation guided maritime traffic in and out of the Chesapeake Bay for the next 20 years.
On two occasions (1936 and 1962) while marking the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, Lightship 116 rode out hurricanes so powerful that the ship's anchor chain broke, forcing the crew to drop the spare anchor and run full ahead into the wind for many hours in vain attempts to remain on station.
Despite some equipment upgrades, such as radar, technology began to overtake Lightship 116 by the 1960s. In 1965, the Chesapeake Lightship Station was replaced by a Coast Guard offshore light tower built on stout pilings strong enough to withstand the roughest seas. Manned by a crew of just four, the light tower was cheaper to run and had a more powerful beacon visible for a distance of 17 miles. After being relieved at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Lightship 116's final duty station was marking the approaches to Delaware Bay until replaced there by a large automated light buoy in 1970.
In 1971, Lightship 116 was acquired by the National Park Service and was open to the public on the Potomac River. Since 1982, the ship has been part of the Baltimore Maritime Museum, now Historic Ships in Baltimore, and has continued to serve as an important link with the history of American aids to navigation.