Folsom Powerhouse Retrofit

Folsom, CA

At 4 am on July 13, 1895, a 100-gun salute signified the opening of the Folsom Powerhouse. Recognized as a National Historic Landmark for both industrial and engineering achievements, the Powerhouse complex is one of the oldest hydroelectric facilities in the United States. Constructed of unreinforced masonry and hollow clay tile, the Main Powerhouse structure was at substantial risk of damage or collapse during a seismic event. In a non-traditional approach, the seismic retrofit solution utilized steel struts to brace the building to the adjacent diversion channel buttress system. This approach dramatically improved the anticipated seismic performance, utilized the strength of existing elements, and simultaneously preserved the historic fabric.

Quick Facts

  • Size: 8,200 SF
  • Architect: California Department of Parks and Recreation
  • The retrofit included the Main Powerhouse, Lower Powerhouse and construction of a new pedestrian bridge to replicate the original which had previously collapsed
  • The powerhouse continuously operated from 1895 to 1952
  • Construction Cost: $8,000,000
  • Contractor: SW Allen Construction
  • Folsom Powerhouse provided power to SMUD Station A in Sacramento to provide electricity to the Railyards. Sacramento celebrated with a “grand electric carnival” by placing lights on the state capitol building.

Photo credit: Chip Allen Architectural Photography & Buehler Engineering, Inc.