Electricity not how Sioux Falls' century-old power building got its start
This special edition of SCOUTING YESTERDAY explores how a region-leading canning factory was used to electrify South Dakota's largest city
The city of Sioux Falls' 122-year-old power plant in northern Sioux Falls has a storied history that even predates City Hall's acquisition of the North Minnesota Avenue property at the turn of the century.
Originally built by the Minnehaha Canning Company, which produced millions of cans of corn every year at the manufacturing plant that earned Sioux Falls nationwide distinction in the canning industry, Sioux Falls Mayor George W. Burnside convinced the City Council to purchase the building for the purpose of lighting 20 miles of streets in 1901. His pitch was that it would save the city $3,500 annually on its lighting bill.
And the dollar went a lot further back then. While the city is fixing to spend millions on a new power station now, what Burnside got approved for the retrofitting of a canning factory into an electricity generator was a deal that couldn't exceed $12,000.
Designed beyond what was necessary at the time, Burnside felt the plant's extra capacity would enable the city to eventually include a municipal water system at the same site.
Burnside, along with other city officials, had toured municipal facilities in Sioux City and looked into the municipal water systems of other area towns. With that information, City Hall pushed to add the water plant to the new municipal power plant campus, which earned approval from the City Council the same year. And voters were on board, approving a $210,000 bond later for the water plant's construction before year's end.
Municipally-powered lights turned on in Sioux Falls for the first time Sept. 15, 1901. And for the first time in city history, residential streets were lit – at half the cost previously paid to light other city streets.
The power plant saw its first expansion in 1918. The completion of the five-year project in 1923 allowed the Sioux Falls School Board to hook into the city power system, saving the school district more than $100 a month. In addition to schools, parks, and public buildings, the city also supplied 38 private customers at the time.
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