The site of Gould Street Power Plant has a fairly rich history, as it is roughly located on the former site of Fort Babcock and prior to the start of demolition had a plaque and cannon on the property commemorating the fort’s significance in the War of 1812. Though the victory was immortalized in Francis Scott Key’s lyrics for the Star-Spangled Banner, Fort Covington and Babcock were mostly forgotten and in ruins by the mid-1850s.
The construction of the power plant was itself an act of war of sorts, though not between nations but rather companies. Thought the Consolidated Gas Electric Light and Power Company of Baltimore had emerged as the victor in providing electric power, The Maryland Telephone and Telegraph Company was the main source of telehpone service and boasted 9,000 Baltimore subscribers in 1904. With the backing of Maryland Telephone and Telegraph Company officers, the Baltimore Electric Power Company was incorporated, and the Gould Street Power House was to be their flagship plant.
The Gould Street Power House was estimated to cost $2 million to build, and would be “thoroughly modern and fireproof”. When Gould Street opened with a production capacity of approximately 8,000 horsepower in 1905, it must have been a somewhat terrifying development for Consolidated, who started construction of their own flagship Westport Generating Station that same year and began operations there in 1906. A short but fierce price war took place which saw the Baltimore Electric Power Company losing money and they were consolidated by Consolidated in 1907 or 1908.
As the city’s electrical demand could be carried solely by Westport, Gould Street was used as a backup during periods of peak demand. Gould Street’s function over the next decade or so is ambiguous. Whatever the case may be, work on a new addition to Gould Street began in 1925 and opened in 1927, crowned with two brand-new smokestacks that would serve as a navigation marker for ship captains in the decades to come. In 1977 two of the three units at Gould Street were decommissioned, but Unit 3 continued to operate sporadically for peak summer demand and energy shortages. Periodic use of Unit 3 continued until June 1, 2019, when the entire plant was closed for good and sold six months later to Greenspring Realty Partners Inc. and two of the older buildings were demolished.
Currently the property is controlled by the Port Covington Development Team (later rebranded as Baltimore Peninsula), which, according to SouthBMore.com, consists of “lead investors Sagamore Ventures and Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, and lead developer Weller Development Company.” Though there are no current indications what future plans for the Gould Street property are, Baltimore Peninsula’s projects in the immediate surroundings suggest a mixture of residential, retail, and office use. A short walk nearby will take you by the Sagamore Spirit Distillery, the Rye House (an apartment complex) and Rye Market (a food hall and shopping center), and the new Under Armour headquarters, which has an accompanying track and field facility. It’s clear that Baltimore Peninsula wants to make a hip new neighborhood where many of the city’s defunct waterfront industries used to be, and it’s a safe bet that the Gould Street Generating Station property will factor into that.
Matthew Christopher MD Baltimore Jun 05, 2023 Abandoned Places Architecture History