Written by Joanna Adams Sergent
Coal mines need the power to operate. The question became, how to get electricity to the rural areas of Eastern Kentucky. When even the major cities of the state did not have it at the time. This was the year 1913, and many rural areas in the United States did not have electricity. This is the history of the first power plant in Eastern Kentucky.
The Plant had the sole purpose of providing electricity to the Letcher County area. Construction began in 1913. The design for the plant included steam generators. Which helped provide power for equipment and lighting for the coal mines. The construction of the building included a way to store the required water. The water would convert to steam to drive the electric-producing generators.
Mining operations must construct their own sources of power during that time. The building was in operation as only an electric power plant from the years between 1913 and 1935.
It is unclear who built the power plant itself. Consolidation Coal Company could have hired the Nickola construction company of Pittsburg PA. The reason Nickola is a candidate is that they are the ones that built the buildings in the area.
Location and Date of Construction
Located on the northside of the U.S. Highway 805 south ( old U.S. 23). The power plant is south of Little Elkhorn Creek in Jenkins in Letcher County, Kentucky. Located near the central business district of Jenkins, Kentucky. The building’s location is in front of the water reservoir.
The Architecture Style
The building construction included a style not found on the other buildings in the city. Because it boasted the industrial architecture of the early 1900s.
The exterior of the building construction was large. It includes a large seven bay by six-bay 126 feet by 136 feet rectangular floor plan. The brick building has ashlar stone as highlights. The foundation is also composed of ashlar stone. The composition of the roof is decorative tile. The smokestack construction is buff brick. Which rests upon an octagon base composed of corbeled brick.
The interior of the building is plain and does not display any significant details. Metal trusses support the roof. The interior changed over the years to accommodate its new uses. With four settling tanks added for water. New walls to separate the rooms, the building has changed for use as a gymnasium.
The deed title to the land and the building would change hands several times over the years. The original and later owners listings in the County Court Clerk’s office. Located in the Letcher County Court House in the county seat of Whitesburg, Kentucky.
The land was first owned on record in 1903 by John W Wright. Wright sold to the Northern Coal and Coke Company that year.
Northern Coal and Coak Company then sold to the Consolidation Coal Company. Consolidation Coal Company then sold the deed to D.B. Query on November 13, 1946.
The Lincoln Investment Corp. sold the property to the Kentucky Water Company on March 15, 1947.
Query Enterprises Inc. sold the property to the Kiwanis Gym Commission Inc. on December 30, 1952.
The deed changed hands for the last time on April 20, 1987. The Water Company of Jenkins from the Kiwanis Gym Commission.
The Jenkins Water Treatment Plant
In 1938, a water treatment plant addition to the facility took up one-third of the building space. The Consolidation Coal Company ceased using the building as an electric plant. The company removed all-electric producing equipment. Thus, they leased the building to the City of Jenkins for use as a water treatment plant.
This building would serve as the City’s water treatment plant from 1938-1987. Before demolition, the City of Jenkins constructed a modern water treatment plant. This building would sit between the city dam and the now dubbed “Field House”.
Other Uses or the Power Plant Building
The remaining section of the building served many purposes for various community-related activities. In 1950, the Kiwanis Gym Commission purchased the unused section of the building. This was for a gymnasium for youth sports and other activities. This included basketball, school graduations, plays, and meetings. The Scout organizations also used this part of the building to hold their meetings.
The building no longer stands but it remains a landmark in our hearts. This concludes the article on the First Power plant in Letcher County, Kentucky. We thank you for continuing to support Kentucky Tennessee Living. As we bring to you the history of the Appalachian Mountains.
Jenkins Power Plant Video
Here is a video of the history of the Jenkins Powerplant in Jenkins, Kentucky that was available to everyone as of 2021.
The First Video of the First Powerplant in Jenkins, Kentucky
Jenkins Powerplant Slideshow
This video shows all the pictures that are currently available from multiple sources of the Jenkins Powerplant
Information concerning the Jenkins Powerplant
Historic American Buildings Survey
National Park Service
Department of the Interior
Ashland Daily Independent: Friday, September 5, 1913
All photos are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. This includes photos dated before 1923. All other photos are used with permission or under the education fair use statute of the US copyright law.
Copyrighted through a Creative Commons License.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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When we forget our past and who we are as a people, then we become who “they” say we are. ~~ David Sergent
I have attended the University of Kentucky. I have an Associates Degree from Hazard Community College and Technical School. I have also attended the University of Pikeville. I have taken several classes in Journalism as well as in the Appalachian History, Literature, and Sociology during my time at those schools.
I was born in Florida and grew up in Burdine, Kentucky. I have been married to David W. Sergent since May 4, 2013. I have two children and four grandchildren from a previous marriage. I currently live in Tennessee but my hope is to one day come back home to live in the beautiful mountains once more.