The Power House was constructed in 1905 in the Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago as part of the Sears, Roebuck & Company complex designed by Chicago architectural firm of Nimmons & Fellows. It served as the heating and cooling plant for the massive Sears complex until it was decommissioned in 2004. Now it is part of the $35 million, award-winning Homan Square redevelopment project, undergoing restoration for use as Henry Ford Power House High, which will answer a deep community need for high-quality schools.
One of the most iconic exterior features of the building is the 185 foot tall, 14 foot wide, radial brick chimney, which will be preserved as a neighborhood landmark, but also as an educational tool to facilitate student experimentation with the dynamics of heat, airflow and energy generation. To stabilize the chimney and preserve its structural integrity, a portion of the top was removed and all of the brick masonry is being repointed. Once this step is complete, a chimney liner will be installed and a transparent chimney cap placed on top, to allowing daylight into the heart of the building while also giving students access to the structure of the chimney.
The Power House is expected to be complete in time for Power House High to accept students in the fall of 2009, but they are still seeking additional funds to support the retention and restoration of historic mechanical elements in the building, such as the “Link-Belt” coal bucket system that carried coal to the furnaces in the basement.
– Christina Morris
Christina Morris is a program officer in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Midwest Office.
Learn more about the Partners in Preservation program here.
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