Historic Structures

Nooksack Falls Hydroelectric Plant, Glacier Washington

The Nooksack Falls powerhouse, containing a relatively small generating capacity of 1,500 kilowatts, is, nevertheless, one of the oldest operating hydroelectric facilities in the state of Washington. Completed in 1906 and designed to serve the electrical needs of Whatcom County, it provides power for the nearby small town of Glacier and its sparsely populated environs. Despite some modifications through the years, most notably the replacement of the original Francis turbine with a Pelton impulse wheel in 1910, and the replacement of the penstocks and relocation of the diversion dam in 1931, the plant and machinery remained largely unchanged until a fire in 1997 destroyed the generator. It was replaced in 2003 and the plant resumed operation. In the Eastern states, the typical hydroelectric plant at the turn of the century was low head, that is, the water dropped only a short distance from the forebay to the turbines, and high volume (meaning a large quantity of water was available.) Electricity generated by Eastern hydroelectric plants was typically transmitted over relatively short distances. The hydroelectric technology developed for conditions in the East, however, was often inadequate when applied to the West. In a region characterized by high elevations, low quantities of water, and long transmission distances, engineers had to modify existing technology, and sometimes invent new technologies, to meet the Western challenge. Their success in finding solutions to such problems is embodied in the Nooksack plant, a typical high-head hydroelectric facility of the early 1900s.

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Boston Manufacturing Company, Waltham Massachusetts

According to business historians Glenn Porter and Harold c. Livesay, the Boston Manufacturing Company (BMC) was the first truly modern factory in the United States. Founded in 1813 by Francis Cabot Lowell, Patrick T. Jackson, and others, the BMC integrated and mechanized production from raw material to finished product under a single management and within a single factory. This new industrial form, says textile manufacturing historian Caroline F. Ware, soon came to dominate the cotton industry, because it marked a radical departure from all that had gone before, differing almost as much from the early mill as the latter had from its handicraft predecessors. Much of the BMC's success stemmed from its innovative development of an entire series of new or improved textile machines. According to Harvard business historian George Sweet Gibb, the power loom of the Boston Manufacturing Company affected the American cotton textile industry as no other innovation since 1790 had done. It signalized the awakening of American mechanics and the end of their slavish dependence on British technology. Moreover, says Ware, it was power-loom weaving that furnished the technical basis for reorganization of the factory and for a practically unlimited extension in the size of the factory plant. In her prize-winning 1931 study of the early New England cotton textile industry, Caroline F. Ware asserts that the story of the New England cotton industry is the story of the industrialization of America. This industry brought the factory system to the United States and furnished the laboratory wherein we worked out industrial methods characteristic of the nation. Ware and most other economic historians date the beginning of the American cotton textile industry to 1790, the year in which William Almy and Moses Brown, utilizing the ideas and skills of English immigrant Samuel Slater, opened the country's first successful cotton mill in Providence, Rhode Island. Following the Providence example, a number of entrepreneurs started cotton mills during the next two decades, and by 1810 some 168 cotton factories with 90,000 spindles were operating in the United States. These mills struggled, however, against competition from cheap goods imported from England and against shortages of skilled workers and investment capital. The trade embargo of 1807-9 and the war of 1812 altered these conditions significantly by shutting off foreign competition, freeing commercial capital for investment in manufacturing, and sparking a wave of new mill construction. Chief among these new enterprises stood the Boston Manufacturing Company, which was organized, says Ware, along a new industrial form that soon came to dominate the cotton industry and that marked a radical departure from all that had gone before, differing almost as much from the early mill as the latter had from its handicraft predecessors.

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Whittier Theatre, Whittier California

The Whittier Theatre was not Whittier's first movie house, but it was its most prominent one. At least three other motion picture theaters preceded the Whittier Theatre: the Family Theatre (124 S. Greenleaf Avenue) and the Optic (111 S. Greenleaf Avenue) were both operated by the G.H. Keipp family sometime after 1900, probably in the 1910s [Whittier Daily News, n.d., c. 1910s] the Scenic Theatre was in business at 211 E. Philadelphia when the Whittier Theatre opened its doors in the summer of 1929. When the Whittier Theatre was being planned, the owners deliberately selected a site on the outskirts of town to escaoe the Whittier blue laws that would have prohibited showing movies on Sunday [Tribune/News December 13, 1987]. The Whittier Theatre was designed as a combination movie palace and stage theater, and it is noteworthy that the premiere gala included not only the screening of Monte Blue's From Headquarters but three special vaudeville numbers. The relative isolation of the theater from the main commercial district of uptown Whittier seems to have had an adverse effect on the complex's businesses for several years. Although the two principal adjacent businesses (the McNees Cafe and the Whittier Pharmacy) were stable, city directories indicate that, up until about 1936, other businesses came and went, and there were several vacancies. The heyday of the Whittier Theatre lasted from the late 1930s until the 1950s, when television began making inroads on movie-going. Excerpts from newspaper articles make it clear that the theater is fondly remembered by many of the area's residents as a popular social focal point and an important part of their younger years.

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