The vacant Ivanhoe Wheelhouse building will house a raceway system demonstration project and serve as the interpretation center for water power at the Great Falls National Park, announced mayor Jose “Joey” Torres on Monday afternoon.
Torres envisages the revival of the raceway system that powered the area mills as integral part of the national park. He wants water from the Levine Reservoir to flow through the raceway system built by the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufacturers (S.U.M.).
“As the most significant historic resource within the district, it is crucial that the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufacturers’ (S.U.M.) Raceway system be reopened with water flowing through it to serve as a key historic interpretive feature of the national park,” said Torres in a statement.
Torres said the city will commission an engineering study of the raceway system to identify deficiencies and formulate a plan which will include cost estimates to rehabilitate the system which was seriously damaged in 2010 by hurricane Irene.
The study will determine the feasibility of watering the raceway system from the Levine Reservoir as an alternative to the Passaic Valley Water Commission’s proposal to place two large concrete water storage tanks inside the Great Falls Historic District.
Besides using the raceway demonstration project, the Ivanhoe Wheelhouse will serve as the interpretation center for water power at the Great Falls.
“Some initial displays will serve to interpret for our visitors the vital function of the 1830s raceway system and of water power to the growth of the S.U.M. industrial district,” said superintendent of the national park Darren Boch.
Boch said the National Park Service (NPS) conducted a study of the raceway system in 2013. That study found several sections of the raceway in poor condition including the 1846 Gatehouse near the McBride Avenue bridge.
“This is an appropriate use for the Wheelhouse, which once housed a water turbine that was turned by the water from the raceway to generate the mechanical power needed to operate mill machinery,” said Gianfranco Archimede, director of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
The wheelhouse is what remains of the Ivanhoe paper mill. Both the raceway system and the wheelhouse is owned by the city.
The raceway system was conceived by Pierre C. L’Enfant, who designed the United States capital in Washington D.C., after the founding of S.U.M. L’Enfant was dismissed from the project in 1793 due to lack funds and a lack of confidence in his ambitious plans.
Peter Colt was left in charge.
Colt simplified L’Enfant’s plan and the raceway was tested and water power was available to the mills by summer of 1794.