Bracketing Davol Square are two impressive early-twentieth-century powerhouses named
Of the two, the earlier (Manchester Street) plant is more abstractly rationalized, and hence displays the more “industrial” aspect. Ranges of tall, narrow arches with metal sash along the side elevations light the interior, expanding to broader arched windows under stepped gables at either end. The chunky, close-fisted quality of this powerhouse is appropriate for the dynamos within and expressive of the concentration of energy at the point of its release. On the other hand, the 1913 building spreads as a classicized screen. Industry is self-con-sciously monumentalized toward the higher order of public grandeur associated with the classicism favored by the City Beautiful movement, here in an alternating rhythm of giant arches and pilasters ranged between a high base and an entablature. But this is stripped classicism, as though intended as well to celebrate the ideals of time-and-motion efficiencies, then also a conspicuous part of the progressive American industrial credo. Whatever Perry's role in the choice of this design (if any), one feels that he would have sympathized with its classical appeal.
Until 1991 an overhead conveyor belt linked the South Street powerhouse with coal piles adjacent to the Manchester Street complex two blocks away. It was removed in 1992 partly because of the closure of the South Street plant and partly to arcadianize as much as possible the linear park which now extends along the river frontage between the plants. As this book goes to press, the South Street building is poised for rehabilitation as Heritage Harbor, a consortium of historical museums, archives, and libraries.
As a complex, particularly as a spotlighted nighttime silhouette, the powerhouses are best viewed from the east bank of the Providence River. Cross on the Point Street Bridge (1928–1929, Boston Bridge Works), a trussed swing bridge (now fixed in place) with its onetime control shanty tucked into the trussing. Its sidewalks provide a good vantage point for views up the Providence River into the downtown.