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A Distinction for the Canal Walk

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The 1901 Italianate building featured on the cover (“The Missing Link,” Cover Story, Dec. 1) is not only handsome but has another distinction. The 12th Street hydro-electric plant across the canal was built by Gilded Age developers as the city's first central power plant in 1899-1900. Until then the city's electricity plants were smaller ones operated by streetcar companies to run their lines. The plant's developers saw not only trolley lines as potential customers but also residents and businesses. To go with the power plant, the developers built the Italianate building as a speculative factory, with the special attraction that it featured electrical power. It was probably the first factory in the city that was built wired for electricity. A suggestion to the new developers in their renovation is to try to reveal the electrical archaeology in the building, and then call it something like Electrical Place.

Jeffrey Ruggles
Richmond

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