Seattle City Light receives Save America’s Treasures grant for rehabilitation of Georgetown Steam Plant

Award is one of 41 distributed by National Park Service, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Humanities

Seattle City Light has received a $500,000 Save America’s Treasures grant for the rehabilitation of the exterior historic concrete of the Georgetown Steam Plant, a 113-year old National Historic Landmark, the National Park Service (NPS) announced. This work will extend the building’s life, protect priceless early era electrical equipment and allow more public use than currently programmed.

“We thank the National Park Service, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Humanities for recognizing the historic importance of the Georgetown Steam Plant, which represents an important development in the early history of electrification in the United States,” said Lynn Best, City Light Chief Environmental Officer. “This funding will support City Light’s efforts to rehabilitate this building and protect the significant historic resources inside including the two vertical Curtis turbine generators.”

The Georgetown Steam Plant, a National Historic Landmark, stands today as a reminder of the era of electrification of America’s cities and a time when industry was first attracted to Seattle by its inexpensive hydroelectric power and electric trolley car system. Built in 1906-1907 by the Seattle Electric Company, the plant was purchased in 1951 by the City of Seattle Department of Lighting – today’s Seattle City Light – which continued to operate the plant on a very limited basis, until the 1970s. In recent years, City Light has been working to restore the plant and has partnered with community volunteers to staff the open houses held each month.

The Save America’s Treasures grant will help fund work to halt the deterioration of the plant’s exterior concrete by removing multiple paint layers and repairing the historic concrete to stabilize the building envelope. This is part of a larger phased rehabilitation project that includes repairs to the windows, doors and a new roof. Other project funding comes from 4Culture, Washington State Historical Society’s Heritage Capital Projects program and City Light.

Since October 2014, City Light has opened the steam plant one Saturday a month from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for free public tours, which have proven very popular, attracting over 7,000 visitors within these limited hours. Private tours are regularly provided to local community, professional, and educational groups, across a range of ages from children at the Museum of Flight Aerospace Camp Experience and the Seattle World School (public school serving new immigrants), to organizations for seniors. The local artistic community has brought an additional audience to the steam plant through a variety of projects, including the production of an original play, in-house artist residencies, an interpretive dance performance, small concerts and several film productions. The rehabilitation work will ensure continued public use for tours and expanded programming guided by a recently established Georgetown Steam Plant Advisory Committee. 

About the Save America’s Treasures program

The NPS, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), awarded $12.6 million in 41 matching grants to support the preservation of nationally significant historic properties and collections through the Save America’s Treasures program.

“Save America’s Treasures helps preserve nationally significant historic properties and collections that convey our nation’s rich heritage to future generations of Americans,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “This $12.6 million in funding will leverage more than $22 million in private and public investment for preservation and conservation projects without spending taxpayers’ money.”

The Federal Save America’s Treasures program was established in 1998, and is carried out in partnership with IMLS, NEA, and NEH with the objective of preserving nationally significant historic properties and museum collections for future generations of Americans to experience, learn from, and enjoy. For more information about the grants and the Save America’s Treasures Program, please visit http://go.nps.gov/sat.

About Seattle City Light

Established in 1910, Seattle City Light is the City of Seattle’s municipally owned electric utility. City Light owns and operates seven hydroelectric power plants in Washington state, two of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Seattle Municipal Light and Power Plant (aka Cedar Falls) and the Skagit River and Newhalem Creek Hydroelectric Projects. With more than 109 years of service, Seattle City Light is dedicated to producing and delivering environmentally responsible, safe, low-cost, and reliable power while also respecting our heritage and managing numerous historic resources to tell our story.