The story of a forgotten America.

Mad River Power Plant

The Mad River Power Plant is a demolished Ohio Edison coal power plant along the Mad River in Springfield, Ohio.


The first power generator for Springfield was installed by the Driscoll Carriage Works in 1883, illuminating the Kinnane-Wren Store’s incandescent lights and an eight-light system that illuminated one downtown block. 14 A brick powerhouse was constructed in 1884 on North Street between Lowery and Plum streets, but it was soon surpassed by a larger plant housed in a former Methodist Church in 1887.

E.S. Kelly organized the Home Lighting, Heating & Power Company in 1900 and built a power plant on Washington Street. 14 In 1905, the competing People’s Light, Heat & Power Company purchased the interest of the Springfield Electric Railway and erected a powerhouse on Jefferson Street near its competitor. Both utilities were acquired by the Springfield Light Heat & Power Company in September 1908. The newly merged company purchased land at Rockaway and Fisher streets in 1909 and built a new power station with a 500 KW turbo generator. The capacity was expanded in 1910, 1916, 1920 and 1924.

The Ohio Edison Company was formed in 1923 and acquired the Northwestern Ohio Light Company in Urbana and the Marysville Light & Water Company in Marysville. 14 Ohio Edison merged with Springfield Light Heat & Power in 1924 and formed plans to construct a large coal-fired power plant along the Mad River.

Mad River Power Plant

Designed by Springfield architect William K. Shilling, the 20 MW 1 Mad River Power Plant opened at the confluence of the Mad River and Buck Creek on October 2, 1927. 1 14 15

Coal arrived on railroad cars and was sent to a crusher, which was then hauled to the top of the power plant via a conveyor. 14 Coal was then dumped into hoppers to pass under powerful magnets to remove bolts and metal impurities before being crushed further into a powder. The coal was then blown into the furnace. Air heated to 700° F was shot into the furnace at the same time. Internal furnace temperatures approached 2,500° F. Water for the three 70-foot-high boilers came from the Mad River, which was purified and heated to 700° F (later boilers heated the steam to 900° F). The steam from the boilers was used to drive the turbines at 3,600 revolutions per minute to produce electricity.

A condenser, which used untreated water from the Mad River, was taken in to cool the steam back into nearly pure water which was then fed into the boilers.14 This created a downward vacuum that helped maintain the flow in the boiler system. Any emissions rose through a 280-foot stack.15 Any emissions rose through a 280-foot stack.

Another 20 MW unit was added in 1939, and another in 1950. 14

On May 23, 1973, Ohio Edison was ordered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cease any air emission at the Mad River facility by June 24, an order that came after the state EPA denied four variances for pollution. 7 The company failed to submit an approvable compliance schedule to stay within state and federal air regulations. Ohio Edison repeatedly requested a variance to continue to operate the non-compliant boilers until 1978. 12 Variances were granted until 1981 when the Mad River Power Plant was closed. 15

Demolition on the Mad River Power Plant began in July 2010 and was completed later in the year at the cost of nearly $4 million. 15 During the demolition process, the smokestack was toppled but undetected cracks left the tower falling in the wrong direction, taking out a building housing backup generators and two 12,500-volt power lines. 16

Rockaway Plant

Ohio Edison operated a steam plant for 240 downtown Springfield customers on Rockway Street. 6 8 The company attempted to shut down the steam plant as early as October 1970 because of the aging facility’s cost, lack of profit (losing $235,000 for the fiscal year 1971 4 5), and the cost of installing air pollution control equipment. 3 8 9 In addition, Ohio Edison lost 23% of its steam plant customers between December 1960 to December 1970 because of urban renewal projects. 4 The cost to convert the plant to oil-fired burners to comply with air pollution standards developed under the Air Quality Act of 1967 would exceed $2.539 million, 2 6 13 and would increase the cost of the plant by $57,188 per year. 4

A Public Utilities Commission (PUC) hearing was held as the request by Ohio Edison to abandon its Springfield, Akron, and Youngstown steam plants by July 1973. 2 The city retained a consultant to evaluate the steam plant and to develop conversion estimates for some of the downtown tenants with the goal of delaying the shut down until 1978 when the city planned to have downtown served by natural gas. 2

The PUC approved an amendment in February 1972 that extended the steam plant shut down until July 1975. 3




  1. “The Mad River Plant Opens.” Springfield News-Sun 27 Jan. 1997: n. pag. Print.
  2. Sharp, Tom. “Steam Shutdown Hearings to Resume.” Springfield News-Sun 6 Dec. 1971: n. pag. Print.
  3. “Steam Heat Hearing to be Held Tuesday.” Springfield News-Sun 12 Feb. 1972: 13. Print.
  4. “Ohio Edison Official Testifies On Steam Heat Losses.” Springfield News-Sun 4 Nov. 1971: 26. Print.
  5. “Steam Service May Continue to 1975.” Springfield News-Sun 24 Feb. 1972: n. pag. Print.
  6. Hartley, Herb. “Steam Heat Shutdown… A Chilling Thought.” Springfield News-Sun 22 Nov. 1970: n. pag. Print.
  7. “Ohio Edison Gets Order.” Springfield News-Sun 24 May 1973: n. pag. Print.
  8. “Ohio Edison Plans to Quit Its Steam Heating Service.” Springfield News-Sun 13 Oct. 1970: n. pag. Print.
  9. “Dire Results Seen From Heat Loss.” Springfield News-Sun 1 Mar. 1972: n. pag. Print.
  10. “Long-Ranged Solution To Heating Problem Necessary, Agrees Group.” Springfield News-Sun 27 Nov. 1971: 12. Print.
  11. “Ohio Edison Steam Heat Plant To Remain Open.” Springfield News-Sun 15 Dec. 1973: 14. Print.
  12. “Ohio Edison May Be Forced Into Reduced Power Output.” Springfield News-Sun 1 June 1973: 4. Print.
  13. “Possible ‘Death Blow’ Feared If Steam Halted.” Springfield News-Sun 6 Apr. 1972: n. pag. Print.
  14. Stafford, Tom. “One last look at the Giant of the Mad River Valley.” Springfield News-Sun 19 July 2010: n. pag. Web. 4 July 2012. Article.
  15. Outten, Bridgette and Megan Gildow. “Demolition of former Ohio Edison plant underway.” Springfield News-Sun 10 July 2010: n. pag. Web. 4 July 2012. Article.
  16. Lough, Valerie and Samantha Sommer. “Undetected crack caused tower to fall wrong way, demolition company says.” Springfield News-Sun 11 Nov. 2010: n. pag. Web. 4 July 2012. Article.


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In the late 1950’s I worked in the substation & transmission design sections at Commonwealth Associates, Inc in Jackson Michigan. We had an older tall, thin engineer working with us called “Slim DeLombard” who excelled at wiring & schematic diagrams. If my memory serves me correctly at age 84, he told us Commonwealth sent him down to the Mad River plant to trace cabling & wiring so design drawings could be made for a new generator addition (most likely the 20 MW unit in 1950). He said he spent weeks under false floors or cubicles in poor lighting, often on his knees, tracing & marking up old drawings. As a young engineer I was very impressed. Having since spent 35 years in the electric power industry, mostly in California, I too cane to appreciate how hard it was to trace cable wiring & prepare accurate schematics. I loved the power business & the hard working people I met there through all those years. Whether working as a scientist, engineer, technician, cable splicer or lineman, there are few better jobs that can provide so much benefit & advancement to people. April 7, 2020

My dad Reuben Burchnell worked at the rockway plant until his retirement in the early 1960 s after 39 years at that plant. Also my brother in law Ray Vanhorn worked several years at the madriver plant.

I don’t understand why they didn’t try to salvage some of the historic objects on the inside, or even the OHIO EDISON sign on the outside. I would have paid to take it…

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