Washington Street Heating Plant

 

The University Main Building

Washington Street Heating Plant


By 1911 it had become evident that drastic changes were required in the heating system. Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, a Detroit firm of architects and engineers, was commissioned to study the problem and to prepare plans for an adequate central heating plant. As a result of these studies, construction of the Washington Street Heating Plant and its system of distribution tunnels began in 1912. The project was completed in 1914, and the new unit served all University buildings, with the exception of the Hospitals, until 1924.

The site selected for the plant was in the valley, popularly known as the “Cat Hole,” leading from the northeast part of the campus to the Huron River. This location, between Huron and Washington streets and also between the campus and the hospitals, was of such elevation that heating tunnels servicing the two areas could be set at grades to permit the return of condensate to the plant by gravity flow. This location also permitted the installation of a spur railroad with an electrically driven locomotive, which provided an economical means of hauling coal from the Michigan Central Railroad to the storage pile adjacent to the heating plant.

“Cathole” - Northeast of the Campus

The University Main Building