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Sandra Swanson Weichert's
Historic Mount Oread

Campus Building Directory

This Week in
KU History

The University
of Kansas

The Power Plant
Home of the Campus Steam Whistle

As the campus grew the number of buildings requiring heat and electricity called for increased production of energy. To meet these needs a new plant was built in 1922 at a cost of $290,000. The building was the fifth power plant constructed at KU, and similar in design to many public structures in the 1920s.

Since the mid 1950s the University has purchased electricity instead of producing it with steam. Water is converted to steam beneath the structure and sent through steam tunnels on campus, some dating to the 1880s.

A 252-foot smokestack, which stood for over sixty years, was replaced by two smaller stacks in 1987. The steam whistle remains, a KU tradition since 1912.

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power plant
Location: Sunflower Road at its intersection with the service roads, southwest corner.

Construction: 1910

Architects: Ray L. Gamble, State Architect; John M. Shea, KU Director of Buildings and Grounds, Professor George G. Bayler

Contractors: Colling Brothers Construction Co., Kansas City, MO; KU Buildings and Grounds staff and Director Charles G. Bayler

Levels: Two and one-half

Exterior Walls: Brown pressed brick, stretcher bond; header bond rows below windows

Foundation: Reinforced concrete with cut, coursed limestone

Structure Reinforced concrete and brick

Roof: Built-up flat roof; brick parapet with terra cotta decorations, frieze, and belt courses; until 1987, a 252-foot smokestack was at the south rear

Window and Door Surrounds: Semi-circular arches with brick voussoir and terra cotta keystones