Visit the historic Fremont Powerhouse

July 18, 2001 11:00 pm
Seven years ago the historic Fremont Powerhouse near Granite (left photo) seemed on the verge of collapse. A heavy load of rain-soaked snow caved in the roof during the spring of 1993. But volunteers and Oregon National Guard crews, working with the U.S. Forest Service, have restored the power plant. Two years ago workers rebuilt the roof (bottom photo). The Powerhouse will be re-dedicated Tuesday, July 24. (Baker City Herald photograph by Jayson Jacoby.).
Seven years ago the historic Fremont Powerhouse near Granite (left photo) seemed on the verge of collapse. A heavy load of rain-soaked snow caved in the roof during the spring of 1993. But volunteers and Oregon National Guard crews, working with the U.S. Forest Service, have restored the power plant. Two years ago workers rebuilt the roof (bottom photo). The Powerhouse will be re-dedicated Tuesday, July 24. (Baker City Herald photograph by Jayson Jacoby.).

By JAYSON JACOBY

Of the Baker City Herald

When the Fremont Powerhouse produced its first kilowatt of electricity 93 years ago, the terms price caps and rolling blackouts would have sounded as foreign to Oregonians as Swahili.

Generating watts was simpler then.

Find a lake or creek. Divert water into a pipe. Connect the pipe to a wheel. Add a generator.

Thats the formula the Fremont used.

The water came from Olive Lake, several miles to the west.

The Fremont was built to power the Red Boy Mine. Eastern Oregon Power and Light acquired the powerhouse in 1911, and operated it until 1940. California-Pacific Utilities Co. then ran the Fremont until October 1967, when it was shut down.

The buildings roof collapsed in 1993, when it could no longer bear the weight of a heavy layer of rain-saturated snow.

Thats when Joe Batty became involved.

Batty and his wife, Sharon, had worked at the powerhouse from 1968 to 1981. Although the powerhouse wasnt generating electricity, it remained a tourist attraction, drawing as many as 5,000 visitors one summer.

Batty, a Korean War veteran and longtime Oregon National Guardsman, secured a National Guard crew. During the summer of 1999 the crew rebuilt much of the 2,300-foot powerhouse.

The Fremont will be re-dedicated at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 24. The Oregon State Historic Preservation Office will bestow an award on the Umatilla National Forest, which owns the building.

To get to the Fremont, drive the Elkhorn National Scenic Byway to Granite, then take paved Road 10 five miles west. The last mile or so is graded gravel.