At about the same time we were figuring out large-scale electric power in the U.S., we were also building universities. So we ended up with a lot of universities that needed electricity before we had a real power grid. The solution: coal plants. That was the original reason for the building of this particular stack, c. 1913 or so. Once it was no longer needed to generate the electricity, the power plant, which you can’t see because I’ve cleverly foregrounded the wall with the greenery to make it a better photo, became the book depository.
There was a long period of time between the power grid coming online and the discovery of recycling, and for many of those years, the former coal furnace was the book incinerator.
Nowadays, the power plant you can’t see is a restaurant (the building sat vacant for 15 years, but finally we got wise and turned it into a revenue-generating monument). Which is awesome, really. The smokestack makes a fabulous Internet antenna for the university’s wireless network, and includes a water feature (also obscured by the wall) which produces nice sounds and makes the summers easier to endure.
A colony of chimney-sweeps takes up habitation in the stack during the fall of the year. I am not sure where they go for the spring and summer, but during the fall, they stream out of the top of this stack at sunset and they look like smoke. I’m pretty sure they communicate with sonar. They are bat-like creatures of dusk who eat bugs, and they have the ability to all turn at once in flight like a school of fish.
I will photograph them streaming out of this stack, or circling around it, sometime in October or November. At least, I plan to do that. It will require a little luck and my equipment will need to be up to the task. If I manage to actually capture that image, I will post it when you least expect it. Perhaps in December, perhaps in February. If that’s not a reason to stick with me, I don’t know what else to say.
Here’s another photo of the same stack, taken with a different camera and earlier in the year. This is such an unusual piece of architecture, and there are so many different perspectives to view it from, I’ve decided to study it.
I have no idea how accurate the history is. I haven’t done the research and am just telling you what I’ve heard about it, so your mileage may vary, but I am happy to be corrected.