Traction and Electrical Company, Power Station
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HAER No. MI-76-A, Page 7
When Pratt first arrived in Bay City, the leading architectural firm was Porter and Watkins. Porter and Watkins focused on large commercial commissions thus the smaller residential projects were taken on by Pratt. In 1874, Pratt provided free of charge the design for a small church for the Society of St. Stanislaus. Following this he was awarded several commissions for the rural churches and town halls, although the majority of his work remained residences and small commercial buildings in Bay City. In 1880 Pratt's firm became Pratt & Koeppe, when the firm's draftsman, Walter O. Koeppe, was made a partner.
The Sage Library in West Bay City is one of the significant buildings in the city associated with Pratt & Koeppe. While the firm is frequently named as designer of the Library the building was actually designed by Charles Babcock, Dean of Architecture at Cornell University. Henry Sage hired the firm of Pratt & Koeppe to supervise the construction of the building in 1883. Regardless, Pratt & Koeppe benefited from this association and the firm was asked in 1883 to design the St. James Roman Catholic Church in Bay City. Pratt & Koeppe's design was highly acclaimed and the firm subsequently provided designs for the Westminister Presbyterian Church (1886), the First Presbyterian Church (1891), the Broadway Baptist Church (1892), and St. Stanislaus Church (1891). Each design was distinct and brought additional accolades to the firm of Pratt & Koeppe.
The most important project attributed to Pratt & Koeppe is the Bay City Hall (1891-1897). Consider one of the finest civic structures in Michigan, the building is a Richardson Romanesque style structure. It was also during this period that the firm of Pratt and Koeppe reportedly provided the design of the Bay City Traction and Electric Power Station (1893).
By the turn of the century the lumber boom was over as were the large civic projects associated with the era. Pratt and Koeppe continued to receive commissions for churches, but the designs of this period were less elaborate than earlier efforts. Mr. Koeppe died in 1912 and the firm was reorganized and continued as Pratt, Bickel & Campbell until the firm was disbanded in 1915. Pratt, continued to accept occasional commissions until his death in 1923. Most of the original Pratt & Koeppe linen drawings, including plans for the Bay City Traction and Electric Company Power Station, were bleached and recycled as powder bags during World War I. Original paper documents associated with the firm have also been destroyed.
From 1893 to 1919 electric streetcars were operated successfully in Bay City by the Bay City Traction and Electric Company and its successors. Founded in 1893, Bay City Traction and Electric Company became an operating company controlled by the Saginaw Bay City Railway & Light Company, incorporated in 1903. By 1910, the Bay City Power Company absorbed the electric properties of the Bay City Traction and Electric Company. The Power Station Building was constructed by the Bay City Traction and Electric Company as a steam generating plant providing power for the interurban electric traction transportation. Although the building and storage facility and is currently empty and gutted, the former power station represents a brief but important 30 year period of electric traction power utilized for mass transportation in Michigan cities.