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Locations of Gas Plants and Other Coal-tar Sites in the U.S.

  STATE by STATE

            Dr. Doyle and Professor Hatheway have begun a comparative program of presenting graphic plots (GIS basis) of the relative locations of former manufactured gas plants and other coal-tar sites on the basis of individual States. The plots should be useful for a number of purposes, but all tend to illustrate the fact that their locations have been incompletely reported in the major source documentation (Brown's Directory) and have to be "dug out" of research, even though their residuals and wastes are virtually indestructible through natural degradation.

            The maps will appear as we are able to complete the paired plots. The underlying research has been completed for the fifty States and for all major cities. The sole public source of this information are the individual yearly issues of Brown’s Directory of North American Gas Companies, initiated at New York City in 1887, but missing six numbers before 1900. These directories were the main source of the Statewide listings incorporated in the U.S. EPA report of 1985, released to the utility industry in draft form in 1984. There are several shortcomings in the listing, not related so much to accuracy of places identified, but to the policy of the publisher of the original directories in not requesting plant-specific information, resulting in lack of identification of separate gas works in cities having gas companies with more than one gas manufacturing plant. In all cases the Directory does not supply identifying street locational information.

            Our paired plots first portray the location and distribution of gas works as gained directly from the USEPA report. The second plot of each pair deals with all of the gas works and other coal-tar sites identified by Dr. Hatheway, in his research since 1988. The viewer will note a considerable shortfall in derelict site numbers when only the USEPA data from Brown’s Directory is considered. It is also well to remember that gas plants listed in the Directory are mainly commercial works operated by various utility companies, since public (municipal) gas works, unlike in Britain and on the European continent, constituted only a fraction of one percent of the total number. Furthermore, Brown’s includes other coal tar sites only such as were providing “utility” or “merchant” gas for distribution through the listed commercial gas companies. None of the very large number of industrial, institutional, private and governmental gas plants and other coal tar sites were so listed and are not to be found in any other single literature reference.

            Dr. Doyle has devised a system of symbols to uniformly portray the nature of each of the plants or coal-tar facilities on the plots. The symbols are common to our entire series of State and City plots. The series of comparative plots will be expanded as time permits, considering her teaching, research, counseling and service demands at the Department of Geology, University of South Carolina, Spartanburg, SC.  Nonetheless, do look for South Carolina to appear early in the follow-up plots. All plots appear alphabetically.

            Please Note:  The map collection is a work in progress.  Each type of state map will become available as data is compiled by Professor Hatheway.

Click on a STATE or its SYMBOL to view a map of the former manufactured
gas works in that state as researched by Professor Hatheway.
All state maps constructed by Dr. Doyle

           Or choose a state here and press "GO"          

 

Comprehensive records of the numbers and actual location of former manufactured gas plants of this country do not exist. The author keeps an expanding tally based on his discoveries of such sites in the vast literature of manufactured gas. The known and estimated numbers of these plant sites in major cities are presented below, current through March 2001.

Estimated Numbers of Former Manufactured Gas  Plants
 and Other Coal Tar Sites of the United States

Category of Site Number Remarks
Brown’s Directory of North American Gas Plants (From 1887) 1500 Based on USEPA contract assessment of numbers as reported and differentiated as single plants, in ten-year, even-decade tallies.
FMGP’s not reported to Brown’s Directory (From 1887) 1000 Non-detection by virtue of non-membership in gas associations or non-participation in voluntary reporting to publishers of the directory. Non-reporting of multiple or replacement plants by some gas-making entities. Not detected by the level-of-effort USEPA survey (1985) of Brown’s Directory by the decade only.
District Gas Holders built as below-ground components (To about 1910) 500 Common to larger cities with distribution holders and gas compressors were used to extend the radius of distribution beyond the original area. Below-grade holders subject to out-leakage of tars accumulated from purified gas.
Pintsch plants at rail yards (1873-1960) 100-150 Produced compressed illuminating gas for use in all manner of human-occupied rail cars; Not reported in any single journal or listing.
Gas plants at military posts, yards and stations (1849-1945)

Gas plants and gas producers at arsenals and munitions plants

100-150
 

50-100

Virtually any post in operation prior to 1910; As a result of general isolation from commercial sources, particularly of the WW I era.
Institutional gas machines (1850-1950) 5000-10000 Hotels, resorts, hospitals, colleges and schools, estates and mansions, and asylums.
Kerosene refiners (from soft coal);1850-1870 100-150 Distilled lamp oil from boghead coal; Mainly located in New England and generally operating with Scottish coal or oil shale.
Domestic/Residential gas machines (1890-1950) 10000- 15000 Large homes, mansions and country estates; Examples are the intact mansions of railroad magnates James J. Hill (Minneapolis) and Edward Harriman (Arden Estate, rural New York).
Gas producers (1880-1950) 11000- 15000 Fuel supply units for industrial plants incorporating furnaces or kilns; Factories, smelters, iron and steel plants, brick, terra cotta and cement plants.
Bottled manufactured gas plants (1912-1940 100 Manufactured enriched water gas or solvent-vapor gas; Compressed to liquid state into small, portable cylinders.
Compressed fuel briquette plants (1910-1940) 100 Blended and fine-crushed anthracite and bituminous coal; Roasted to recover gas and tar residuals; Bound by-product and compressed into 2X2-inch briquettes.
Beehive coke works (1800-1930) 2000-4000 Produced coke without recovery of by-products.
Merchant and utility coke works (1890-1996) 250-300 Produced coke with recovery of coal-tar by-products.
Tar distilleries (1900-1960) 200-400 Converted tar residues to industrial chemicals and useful by-products.
Wood preservation plants 800-1000 Pressure and non-pressure impregnation of timber with dominantly coal-tar products, mainly creosote. Many lumber yards also participated.
U.S. Bureau of Mines (1947-1990) 5-15 Coal gasification pilot plants operating in study of WW II German technologies (1938-1945)
U.S. Department of Energy and predecessors (1970-1985) 63-75 Coal & oil shale gasification and synthetic fuel coal-gasification pilot projects; Widespread in many States; Operations generally lacked acceptable management of tar residuals.
Totals 32,860 - 50,108 Individual sites at which substantial amounts of coal-tar residuals can be expected to be encountered.

 

Relative Numbers of Former Manufactured Gas Plants in Major American Cities

City FMGPs Other Coal-Tar Sites Special Situations
Atlanta 2 Undetermined Atlanta Gas Light Company name has been retained through several holding-company changes in ownership. Along with the Washington (D.C.) Gas Light Co., believed unique in the U.S. for this particular situation of name retention.
Baltimore 42 150 estimated Gas holders of Baltimore were largely demolished, from 1996 through 2000.
Boston 8 Undetermined Pre-1911: Consolidated by Boston Consolidated Gas Company; Now Boston Gas Company.
Chicago 85 Undetermined;
Hundreds expected
1897-1898: Consolidation begun Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company, and completed in 1907, with ownership control held by Samuel Insull.
Denver 8 Undetermined 1891: Consolidated by Denver Consolidated Gas Co.1893: Reconsolidated by Denver Gas & Electric Co.1910: Reconsolidated by Henry L. Doherty as Pubic Service Company of Colorado
Detroit 13 Hundreds expected Unknown date: Consolidated by Detroit City Gas Company, a private utility; later American Light & Traction Company.
Kansas City, MO 8 More than 2 Ca. 1895: Consolidated by UGI, Philadelphia; Then Cities Service Company, ca. 1912.
Kansas City, KS 2 Undetermined Single-firm monopoly; Various owners; Eventually Cities Service Company.
Long Beach 7 Undetermined 1895: Colonized by UGI, of Philadelphia, PA1914: Consolidated by Southern Counties Gas Co. CA. 1925: Municipal take-over of gas services.
Los Angeles 30 2 known at present Eventually takeover by UGI spin-off- Pacific Gas Improvement Company, formed in 1882; Grew Into today’s Pacific Enterprises.
New Orleans 8 Undetermined Details presently unknown to the author.
New York City  99 Approximately 1000 throughout the five borroughs 1884: Partial consolidation of 7 gas companies into Consolidated Gas Company1891: Gas war between the 16 companies in placepost-1891: Continued consolidation1936: Final consolidation into Consolidated Edison Company of New York City.
Brooklyn 30
Oakland, CA 6 Undetermined 1905: Consolidated by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
Philadelphia City and its near Suburbs 17 Many more than 7 First gas plant a municipal venture; Plagued for decades by scandal; City contracts with UGI for long term operation. Urban and suburban systems strong and operated apart but all owned, after 1882 by UGI operating with J.P. Morgan financing.
Phoenix 3 Undetermined 1882: originated by UGI; passed to Pacific Gas Improvement Co., then to PG&E1920: Arizona Public Service Company formed.
Pittsburgh 9 Many more than 9 Topographic irregularity of terrain suggests original need For relatively greater number of gas plants.
Portland, OR 15 More than 3 Never any competition; Growth of original 1852firm, Portland Gas Light & Coke Company.
Providence 5 Undetermined Remained in perpetual control by Providence Gas Co.
St. Louis 54 26 known; 150 expected 1890: Consolidated by Laclede Gas Light Co., third historic gas company of the City, with 1909 control by Samuel Insull interests of Chicago.
Sacramento, CA 7 Undetermined 1912: Consolidated by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
Salt Lake City 5 More than 6 1920s: Consolidated by Utah Power & Light Co.
San Antonio, TX 2 More than 2 ca. 1894: Municipal take-over.
San Diego Unknown Undetermined Pre-1906: Consolidated by H.M. Byllesby & Co., of Chicago.
San Francisco 31 Undetermined ca. 1912: Consolidated by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
San Jose, CA 5 Undetermined ca. 1912: Consolidated by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
Seattle 10 Undetermined Pre-1913: Consolidated by Pacific Northwest Public Service Company
Washington, D.C. 10 Undetermined Post-1906: Consolidated by Washington Gas Light Company, the original manufactured gas company

Compiled by Allen W. Hatheway, as presently known to or suspected by the author. Note that district stations are counted in FMGP column, when known as such and as potential locations of tar residuals.

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