Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant

Coordinates: 37°55′9″N 107°46′8″W / 37.91917°N 107.76889°W / 37.91917; -107.76889
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Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant
Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant is located in Colorado
Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant
Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant is located in the United States
Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant
LocationUncompahgre National Forest, San Miguel County, Colorado
Nearest cityTelluride, Colorado
Coordinates37°55′9″N 107°46′8″W / 37.91917°N 107.76889°W / 37.91917; -107.76889
Area0.5 acres (0.20 ha)
NRHP reference No.79000621[1]
Added to NRHPDecember 27, 1979

The Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Powerplant, also known as the Bridal Veil Powerhouse, is an electric power generation plant and residence located next to Bridal Veil Falls on a 400-foot (120 m) cliff overlooking Telluride, Colorado. The structure is 2+12 stories on a poured concrete foundation with a wood frame superstructure. It consists of a main power plant building, a 1+12-story residence and a 1-story cookhouse. The power plant foundation is distinctive, with semicircular windows. A semicircular bay with arched windows projects out on a rock spur.[2]


The Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Powerplant was built to power the Smuggler-Union Mine 2,000 feet (610 m) below in 1907, providing alternating current for industrial purposes. The plant was proposed by Smuggler-Union Mine manager Buckley Wells who lived in the residence as a summer home until the 1920s.[3] It was originally accessed in winter by an aerial tramway but that was eventually destroyed. It operated in its original configuration until its decommissioning in 1953, serving the Idarado Mining Company.[2]

The living quarters and especially the power house/generator fell into disrepair and were heavily vandalized by the time of the historic registry survey in 1979.[2] A local resident, Eric Jacobson, acquired a 99-year lease from the Idarado Mining Company for the property in 1988 and proceeded to restore the facility and eventually moved his family into the residence. The AC plant was restored to operation in 1991 with power being generated by its original 2300 volt Westinghouse Electric AC generator, one of the oldest AC generators still in operation.[4][5] In 2010 Jacobson gave up the lease to the Idarado Mining Company citing continual regulation and legal problems associated with the site.[3] Idarado has kept the plant in operation and the power generated now provides about 25 percent of Telluride's demand for electricity. As of 2012, the plant generates approximately 2,000 megawatt hours a year – enough electricity to power about 2,000 average American homes, which is purchased from Idarado by the local San Miguel Power Association.[6]

The Smuggler-Union Powerplant was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 27, 1979.[1]


Generator in the Smuggler-Union powerhouse, one of the oldest still operating in the US
  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Williams, Roger Neville (December 7, 1977). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form: Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant". National Park Service. Retrieved May 1, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Katie Klingsporn, At Bridal Veil, a new chapter Long-time owner/operator Eric Jacobson terminates lease,, October 5, 2010
  4. ^ M. Whelan, The History of Electrification: Ames and Smuggler-Union Power Plants at Telluride,
  5. ^ COLORADO & UTAH TOURBOOK, 2004, page 130
  6. ^ Bridal Veil Power To Be Used Locally, Watch Newspapers, Jul 04, 2012

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