Niagara Falls in Niagara County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Welcome to Schoellkopf Power Station No.3
Welcome to Schoellkopf Power Station No.3
On this site once stood Schoellkopf Power Station No. 3 (Schoellkopf 3). Built by the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company (NFHPMC), at the time of its completion in 1924, it was the largest hydropower station in the world! Two-thirds of this station was destroyed by a series of rockslides on June 7th, 1956.
Did you know? Over 330,000kW (or 330 MW) the amount of electricity produced by Schoellkopf 3, enough to power approximately 11,000 modern homes.
A Brief Explanation of the Site.
The Schoellkopf 3 complex included offices, gatehouses, and other buildings located atop the forge, and three power houses located where you are now. The power houses were accessed via two elevators in the tower you just exited. Above this sign you can see the remains of 3A’s south wall that would become the north wall of 3B. Behind you is the Maid of the Mist’s maintenance building built in 2013-2014, and the back wall of Station 3A, where its penstocks once entered the turbine gallery.
Schoellkopf 3 was built in 3 sections – 3A between 1904 and 1914, 3B between
Schoellkopf 3 took advantage of an existing canal which took water from the Niagara River above the falls and directed it through the city to the top of the gorge in this area. Mills built along the edge of the gorge used the water spilling over the edge to create the “head” that was used to operate the mills’ machinery, and eventually, turbines connected to generators to produce electricity.
The Hydraulic Canal and Schoellkopf Stations Nos.1 & 2.
In 1853, construction began on a canal through the Village of Niagara Falls. By 1857 water was spilling over the gorge edge, but it wasn’t until c. 1875 when water was first used to power a grist mill.
In 1881, Charles Brush’s dynamo was installed in Quigley’s Mill. This generator produced electricity for Brush’s arc light machine. Surplus power was sold to other manufacturers. This eventually became known as Schoellkopf No.1.
In 1895, Schoellkopf built Power Station No.2 at the bottom of the gorge. This was the first time the entire 210 foot head of the gorge was utilized.
“Moma, I bought me a ditch!” Jacob Schoellkopf after purchasing the canal and coming home to tell his wife.
Ca. 1947 aerial photo of the city of Niagara Falls, NY, showing the route of the Hydraulic Canal through the city (dotted
Workers standing atop a Schoellkopf 2 penstock which brought water into the powerhouse 210 feet below.
The inside of Schoellkopf 2 showing the arrangement of a water wheel (center) flanked by two 560-kW General Electric generators.
Did you know? The builders of the pressure tunnel had a clear advantage over those who built the discharge tunnel for the Adams Station as they now had steam shovels!
Hydroelectric Stations in Niagara Falls, NY: Historic Power Station Locations [map]
“Jacob, Jacob, you’ll bring ruin on us yet with your crazy schemes.” Mrs. Christiana Schoellkopf after Jacob told her he bought a canal.
Niagara’s Power Movement Begins
1877- Jacob F. Schoellkopf, a prominent businessman from Buffalo, New York, purchased the Hydraulic Canal in 1877. One year later he formed the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company setting the stage for the construction of Schoellkopf 3.
ca. 1893- Ca. 1893 photo showing the Lower Milling District as the area serviced by the hydraulic canal was called. Brush’s Dynamo was installed in Quigley’s Mill (7), which, by the time of this photo, had become the Cliff Paper Company.
1895-1896- Schoellkopf 2 is built at the bottom of the gorge to take advantage of the full 210 foot head
ca. 1907 – Ca. 1907 photo showing the construction of what would become Schoellkopf 3A. The first four penstocks have been built and hidden behind the stone wall you see behind you.
1919- The three penstock shafts for Station 3B have been dug through the rock and the wheel pits for the turbines are being constructed
ca. 1921- A 4,300 foot long, 32 foot diameter, concrete-lined pressure tunnel, has to be excavated from near the entrance to the canal to provide enough water to operate Station 3C.
Two Decades of Construction
Schoellkopf Station 3 Construction Begins
Construction of Schoellkopf 3 by the NFHPMC began in 1904. The cantilever crane, one of the first items built, lowered men, equipment, and materials into the gorge.
In 1907, after visiting Niagara Falls future president William Taft and his scenic commission commented on the unsightliness of the High Bank area. Response to this was to clad the buildings in stone and cover the penstocks with the stone wall that you see today.
In 1918, a change in the International Waterway Treaty of 1910 allowed for the diversion of more water for power. Construction of Stations 3B and 3C soon followed.
Did you know? 143 feet (at its tallest) x 427 feet the height and length of the stone wall behind you.
Schoellkopf Station 3A (1904-1914)
13 turbines producing approximately 100,000 horsepower generating AC and DC power for the businesses atop the gorge that formerly used the water from the hydraulic canal as their source of power. Turbines 11 through 15 were attached to paired 3500 kW DC generators owned by and providing power to the ALCOA station located atop.
Aerial view of Schoellkopf 3 highlighting the original buildings of Station 3A.
“We dreamed of the harnessing of Niagara. Today we see the greatest electrical power development in the world.” Industrial Agent E.T. Williams in his publication, “Niagara Falls and the Electrical Age,” 1914
Schoellkopf Station 3B (1918-1920)
The hydraulic canal was deepened from 10 feet to 20 feet. Three turbines were added, each producing 37,500 horsepower generating AC power. Three 350-foot long penstocks bored through rock and lined with concrete, with the last 61 feet lined with plate steel encased in concrete.
Aerial view of Schoellkopf 3 highlighting the original buildings of Station 3B.
Did you know? 70,000hp The horsepower of each of the three additional turbines in Schoellkopf Station 3C.
Schoellkopf Station 3C (1921-1924)
Unable to increase the volume of the canal, a tunnel was dug to provide the flow for 3C. The 4300 foot long tunnel started at Port
Aerial view of Schoellkopf 3 highlighting the original buildings of Station 3C.
Building the Stations
Planning- The original 1907 design for Power Station No.3 before it was redesigned to appear more “natural”.
1907- Work has begun on Schoellkopf Station 3. The first two penstocks that will bring water to the station’s turbines are almost completed.
1907- Work is progressing on construction of Schoellkopf Station 3. Notice work being done at the base of the penstocks that will feed water to the turbines.
1919- One of the three turbine scroll castings is being placed in position during construction of Station 3B.
1919- Workers are inside one of the penstock shafts that will bring water to Schoellkopf Station 3B’s turbines.
1923- One of three turbine scroll castings is now in place in Schoellkopf Station 3C.
1924- Installation of a turbine scroll for Station 3C is in progress. One of 3C’s three generators
June 7th, 1956
On the morning of June 7th, leaks were reported t the power station. The leaks outside were coming from the side of the gorge at the top of the talus slope, and flowing close to the upstream end of 3C. Inside leakage was coming from 3B and 3C penstocks with a slight bulge in the floor of 3A.
Upon receiving reports of windows cracking, an engineer, along with two power station foremen, exited the upstream end of 3C noting an increase in water coming from the gorge face. As they proceeded back towards the power station, the flow of water increased, and pieces of rock began to fall followed by larger sections of the cliff face. Two of the men were able to escape upstream, but, one of the foremen, Richard Draper, was swept into the river and perished. Others in the power station escaped and made their way back to the top of the gorge.
“We could see the concrete floors breaking up, the water was rushing through like a river, knocking down the generators as it went.” Don Kline, apprentice generator operator.
Before photo showing the sections of the gorge that would collapse on June 7, 1956, destroying stations 3B and 3C. The collapse would begin at the right of this image and progress in sequence before stopping at the crane pit on the left.
-A 1946 earthquake caused a crack along the gorge.
-Structural integrity of 3C from the time it was built.
-Water seeping through cracks in 3B and 3C penstocks which were concrete-lines tunnels through the rock.
-Holes drilled across the top of the gotge and filled with grout to slow the seepage of water through the gorge face.
-Tailraces of the former mill district which provided easy paths for water to get behind the gorge face.
It is likely that there was no single cause that led to the collapse.
This circa 1900 photo of the mill district shows the many tailraces from the mills that had lined the top of the gorge.
Did you know? 9 Days The time it took to build a coffer dam across the opening of the hydraulic canal to stop the flow of water.
Schoellkopf Station immediately after the collapse.
“I can still see that massive wall falling … and when it got to a certain point, it just dropped straight down.” Bab Chapman, mechanic foreman at the time, 20 years later.
Witness to the Destruction
The collapse of the gorge face was not without warning. Worker accounts indicate they knew something was wrong early in the day as water leaking into the station kept getting more severe. When the collapse began all of the workers except one were able to escape.
Richard Draper, Maintenance Supervisor 1917-1956
Richard Draper’s son, Lloyd, remembers his father as he looks at news clippings of the disaster. Richard was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He moved to Lewiston, NY, with his family in 1944 and began work with the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. Richard, age 39 at the time of the tragedy, was married with three young children.
Sequence of the Collapse
Before- Prior to the collapse, Schoellkopf 3 had been producing electricity for over 40 years.
One…The collapse of the gorge proceeds from the south (upstream) to north (downstream). The collapse has already begun and water can be seen rushing around the upstream end of the destroyed 3C.
Two…In this image the south end of 3C has already been destroyed by the collapsing wall of the gorge. Note the portion of the gorge wall in mid-collapse at the center of the image.
Three…Dust and water obscure the view as the last section of the gorge to fall comes crashing down stop the north end of 3B.
It’s Over in Seconds 5:16- In a matter of seconds the collapse is over and Stations 3B and 3C have been completely destroyed.
After- This photo was taken on June 10, 1956, with water still rushing out of the penstocks
Loss and Gain
With the destruction of Schoellkopf 3, Niagara Mohawk (NiMo) had to deal with a number of problems. NiMo’s most immediate concern was to replace the 400MW of power from Schoellkopf 3 and get the lights back on in Niagara Falls. Some residential customers had power restored within two hours of the disaster and Canadian sources were able to replace 300MW of lost generation in short order, enough to get the lights on and reopen factories; however, a 100MW deficit remained.
The second task was to shut off the water entering the hydraulic canal by building a coffer dam across the mouth of the canal. Once the water was shut off damage assessment could begin.
While 3B and C were a total loss, damage to 3A was relatively minor. NiMO was able to make repairs to 3A. Unit 6 was producing power by December 20, 1956, with 11 units online by August 1, 1957.
Did you know? 5 Years The length of time station 3A continued to operate after the disaster.
“The mighty power of the Niagara has been harnessed for the public good and the beauty of historic Niagara Falls has been preserved for all time.” Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Construction of the Niagara Power Project began in 1958. In this image you can see the channels
Getting 3A Back Online
3A survived the collapse with relatively little damage to the building itself; however all of the electrical equipment needed to be repaired or replaced. Even though NiMo was able to get 3A partially online by the end of 1956, the economic fallout from the collapse would resonate for years to come. Some of the industries that had relied on the power from Schoellkopf 3 moved elsewhere.
By December 20, 1956, 3A was producing power. Generator 12 was the last unit put back in service.
Robert Moses, Chairman of the Power Authority, and the driving force behind the construction of the Niagara Power Project standing st the base of the main dam at the Project.
The Niagara Power Project (NPP)
After the collapse, private industry and the Power Authority of the State of New York (PASNY) battled in Congress and the Courts to see who would build its replacement. The battle culminated with President Eisenhower’s signing of the Niagara Redevelopment Act in August 1957 which was followed by the Federal Power commission issuing PASNY a license to build the NPP in January 1958. Construction began in March 1958 with first power produced at the new plant in January 1961. For more information on the building of the NPP please visit the New York Power Authority’s Visitors Center.
“This 720,000,000 project, financed privately, and scheduled to deliver 1,800,000 kilowatts of firm power when the last of the turbines and generators are installed, begins to function three years from the time of ground breaking, an outstanding engineering achievement.” President John F. Kennedy
An Aerial view of the Niagara Power Project showing the Robert Moses Dam, forebay, Lewiston Pump Generating Plant, and the Lewiston Reservoir.
Did you know? Niagara Power Vista- You can visit the nearby Niagara Power Project to experience more about hydroelectricity and the important role it plays in our lives.
Robert Moses (1888-1981), Chairman/Power Authority of the State of New York, 1954-1962
In his 8 years and 10 months as Chairman, Moses oversaw the construction of two of his largest public works projects, the St. Lawrence – FDR Power Project (1954-1959) in Massena, NY, and the Niagara Power Project near Niagara Falls (1958-1961).
The Niagara Power Project [map]
Clean-Up and Replacement Power
1956/August- This view from inside shows the destroyed south end of Section 3A and the damage caused to its generators in the immediate aftermath of the collapse.
1959/March- The water exiting 3A’s tailrace shows that 3A is back in operation. Cleanup of 3B and 3C has also begun. The only way to remove the debris from
1961/February- Robert Moses and Governor Nelson Rockerfeller throwing the ceremonial switch at the formal “First Power” ceremony on February 10, 1961 when NPF was able to use the full allotment of Schoellkopf 3’s water.
1961/September- Schoellkopf 3A ceased operation at midnight September 30, 1961. This image was taken during one of the last shifts on September 29, 1961.
1961/November- Operations have ceased at Schoellkopf 3. While water passes through the station (note the water still in the forebay and coming out of the 3A tailrace) the lower level of the water in the Niagara River indicates that water is being diverted upstream by the operation of the Niagara Power Project.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Disasters • Industry & Commerce.
Location. 43° 5.552′ N, 79° 3.778′ W. Marker is in Niagara Falls, New York, in Niagara County. Marker can be reached from Discovery Way ¼ mile north of Main Street (New York State Route 104). Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Niagara Falls NY 14303, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Niagara Falls Power Company (within shouting distance of this marker); The Birth of Hydro Electric Power (within shouting distance of this marker); Niagara Gorge Industrial HeritageNiagara Gorge Important Bird Area (approx. ¼ mile away); Bridges of Niagara (approx. ¼ mile away); Replica of the Statue of Liberty (approx. ¼ mile away); The Boundary Waters Treaty (approx. ¼ mile away in Canada); Niagara Falls Medal of Honor Memorial (approx. half a kilometer away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Niagara Falls.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 27, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 20, 2020, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 49 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. submitted on November 20, 2020, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. 21, 22. submitted on November 21, 2020, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.