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Port Washington 1835 to 1985

A community is founded,   pp. 4-21

Page 9

Although the number of stacks at the Wisconsin Electric Power Co. Port Washington plant has changed during the years since the plant
was opened in 1935, the plant has remained a dominant feature in the downtown area. Plans call for a new boiler system which could be
installed in 1986 at the south end of the plant.                                   Wisconsin Electric Power Co. photo.
available for harbor improvement, ignoring the
fact that all earlier attempts had been less than
successful. Money was allocated not only to im-
prove the existing harbor's condition, but also to
provide the facilities for docking large coal
freighters which would deliver the fuel necessary
for the operation of a large electrical power plant
under consideration for location at the foot of the
south bluff.
The S.B, Way, a 530 foot vessel, the largest up
to that time to dock at Port Washington, suc-
cessfully steamed into port on June 21, 1931. The
visit was experimental to prove the feasibility of
docking large ships in the Port Washington har-
bor. Following the successful effort, approval was
received for construction of the electric power
plant and enlargement of the adjacent harbor
began. The expansion effort was laced with multi-
ple setbacks, and in 1934, two weeks after com-
pletion of the project, the corps of engineers
publicly admitted problems in the harbor design
which again had failed to accomplish protection
from the ravages of severe weather. However,
commercial vessels continued to arrive to
discharge their cargo on a regular basis, Storms
from the southeast remained a particular hazard,
even with later improvements made in 1938 and
The Wisconsin Electric Power Company ex-
panded its Port Washington plant to its present
size in the 1940s. The additional capacity required
an increasing number of visits of bulk freighters
carrying tremendous supplies of coal to feed its
five massive turbines. In 1979 the first of the enor-
mous 1000 foot freighters arrived in the harbor
with 39,000 tons of coal, just barely fitting into the
1,100-foot coal dock.
While the completion of the harbor and marina
project in 1982 has done much to provide
favorable protection for small craft, Port
Washington remains only a fair weather port for
larger commercial coal vessels, which often
choose to ride out a storm in the relative safety of
the open waters rather than to risk damage to the
ship or the dock by remaining in the harbor at the
mercy of the furious winds and the pounding

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