73. Steam Plant

Historic Marker number 73 is located at 281 Trumbo Road between Caroline Street and the U.S. Coast Guard Station.

The steam plant is located on man-made land that was once part of the Gulf of Mexico. It rests on part of 140 acres of fill that Henry Flagler created for the depot of his Florida Over-Sea railroad in 1912. The land and piers to the north of the plant, currently used by the United States Coast Guard, are remnants of the once great railway.

It is believed that there was a fledgling electric power source at Fort Zachary Taylor, on the south end of the island, as early as the Civil War.

As the city grew there was a constant need for a reliable source of electric to power the industrial might of Florida's largest city in the late 1800s. A couple of entrepreneurs set out to meet the demand.

The first concerted effort to produce electricity on a large scale began in 1887 with J.J. Philbrick's construction of an electric power plant on Emma Street.

Philbrick hedged his bet on the new industry by retaining gas production as an alternate light source.

In 1897, Curry and Sons started their own electric generating company, on the opposite side of town, to supply their burgeoning businesses.

The two companies consolidated in 1904 under the name of Key West Electric Company and were the only commercial source of electricity on the island until purchased by the City of Key West in 1943.

During the late 40s the City realized that the anticipated electrical load increases could not be sustained by the existing power pants. They started construction for the new steam plant in 1951 and were on line a year later. The new plant serviced the community faithfully until 1991.

Key West currently receives our electrical needs from the mainland through a series of tie lines that span the length of the Florida Keys.

Since then the Steam Plant has taken on a new life. The massive structure, with its art deco facade, has undergone a rigorous adaptive use makeover. It has been reconfigured as upscale condominiums.

To complement the Steam Plant building, part of the industrial sized lot sports an in-fill building of affordable condominiums.

The Steam Plant stands as a testament to Key West's energy growth and feature an impressive adaptive use of a historic structure.