State Line generating plant's history sparks interest

2012-06-30T19:35:00Z State Line generating plant's history sparks interestBy Gregory Tejeda Times Correspondent
June 30, 2012 7:35 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Representatives of the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum, which attempts to preserve the stories of neighborhoods such as South Chicago, the East Side and Hegewisch, were in the now-shuttered State Line Generating Station recently to search for items of historic interest.

Rod Sellers, who oversees the museum in the field house at Calumet Park, said Saturday that he was allowed on the grounds Monday, one day before control of the property along the Illinois-Indiana border was turned over to BTU Solutions.

The Sugar Land, Texas-based company is charged with tearing down the former electrical generating station in Hammond.

Sellers said he was able to salvage boxes of photographs and corporate publications, including employee magazines and manuals and documents related to 25th, 50th and 75th anniversary celebrations held for the State Line Generating Station.

He also came up with blueprints and glass negatives of photographs that he says he will turn over to organizations interested in preserving the history of the former Pullman railroad car factory on Chicago's far South Side.

“They are more interested in those kind of items than we are,” Sellers said.

He was unsure if the BTU Solutions officials would allow him back on the property for more searches, although he said he has contacted them and they have not expressed hostility toward his work. BTU officials were not available Saturday to comment.

Sellers said that is a positive because there are certain elements of the structure itself, which dates to 1929 and was built in an Art Deco style, that he’d like to have preserved.

Those include the guardhouse at the entry to the property, as well as many antique street lamps on the property that he might like to see placed in other locations around Chicago's 10th Ward to enhance a historic feel of those neighborhoods.

There also is the marker on the plant property that designates the Illinois-Indiana border, which Sellers said he’d like to see preserved. However, he acknowledged the marker's brass plates have value as scrap metal.

“I’ve contacted (BTU Solutions) about that to let them know the value of the marker from a historical standpoint.”

The State Line station was a coal-fired facility that, at the time of its closing on March 31, was one of the oldest large-scale urban electrical generating stations in the United States.

Sellers was unsure how long it will be before BTU officials make decisions concerning possible preservation. During a stop at the State Line plant as part of a Saturday tour of Chicago’s Southeast Side that his museum and the Southeast Environmental Task Force coordinated, Sellers said he thinks decisions will be made soon.

“When we do this tour (again) in a year, (the State Line station) won’t look like this,” he said.

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