Working at the hydroelectric plant at Hagley Yard
Keywords: Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; electricians; Henry Clay; hydroelectric power; lighting; steam engines; turbines
Transcript: McKelvey: Good morning. Is Les Mathewson in please
Voice: Just a minute. I'll see if I can reach him.
McKelvey: Hello. Is Les Mathewson in please?
Mathewson: Right here.
McKelvey: Oh Les, this is Frank McKelvey over at the Hagley Museum.
McKelvey: We talked a couple of years ago, I think, about stone quarrying here at Hagley. Remember that?
McKelvey: At that time you told me that you used to work in the hydroelectric plant as an electrician during the summer, I guess, with your father.
McKelvey: And your father helped build the building.
Mathewson: Well, he and Alfred du Pont built the whole building.
McKelvey: Do you have any idea when that was?
Mathewson: Wait a minute...I would say somewhere around...between 1895 and 1900, I think.
McKelvey: Around the Spanish American War.
McKelvey: OK. We weren't quite sure about that date. Was there any building there before they build the hydroelectric?
Mathewson: No. I don't think so. That I don't know. I didn't know it because I was born in '95. 1895. And I know dad told me...see I was only a kid when I worked there in summertime...and he told me that they built it. They didn't give me any dates, but I assumed it was just about somewhere either shortly when I was born or shortly afterwards from our conversations.
McKelvey: How many years did you work in that building?
Mathewson: Oh, I didn't work there only a couple summers. But I used to go up there quite a bit with dad, you know. Like when there was a fire or an explosion or thunderstorm put the lines out. Something like that. I'd go up with him then.
McKelvey: Now what do you mean by putting the lines out?
Mathewson: Well sometimes when the lightening would hit a , hit the line or go along the line and knock the cross-arm pins off, blow the fuses and one thing or another, transformers and all...
McKelvey: Do you remember what kind of generators were in that building?
Mathewson: No...I can see them, but I don't know what kind they were.
McKelvey: How many were there?
Mathewson: There were either three or four.
McKelvey: How many rooms were there in that building?
Mathewson: Was only the...you went up a little ladder from the road level to the floor level. That's where the dynamos were. Up there. And the switchboard. Voltmeters and amp meters and everything were up on the board up on there.
McKelvey: So there was just one big room?
Mathewson: One big room up there.
McKelvey: And then the other room where they had the back— up steam engine.
Mathewson: That was down below.
McKelvey: And that was powered with line shafting?
Mathewson: That was a line shaft came down from the...ran on up. Up on the hill. And runs
Mathewson: Steam came in from the boiler room. And the engines ran the shaft that went out the north side of the building. The side toward the bridge.
McKelvey: OK. What kind of lighting was there in the generating room?
Mathewson: Well it had a couple light brackets up over the board that had the switches and sort of the panel board. Then there was a couple of ceiling drop cords from the ceiling down.
McKelvey: Were they on a conduit or pipe or just loose?
Mathewson: No. Hell no. Didn't have a conduit in those days.
McKelvey: Metal shades or glass?
Mathewson: They were metal with white on the inside and green on the outside.
McKelvey: Do you remember how many there were hanging down from the ceiling?
McKelvey: Was there a ceiling in the building, or was there exposed framework?
Mathewson: It was ceiling dropped. Yeah.
McKelvey: Was there an attic?
Mathewson: That I can't tell you.@ @McKelvey: Do you remember what kind of walls there were? Was it sided in anyway?
Mathewson: I don't remember that either.
McKelvey: Or what color the outside of the building was?
Mathewson: No. I don't remember that.
McKelvey: You say they had one switchboard.
Mathewson: The switchboard was on sort of the south side running parallel to the wall that was going toward Henry Clay. I would say it was bout three foot away from the wall so you could get in back of it.
McKelvey: Was it a wood floor?
McKelvey: And there was some kind of trap door to get you down to the turbines?
Mathewson: No. It was, I think, stairway. I wouldn't say a fancy stairway, but a set of steps, you might say, that went down.
McKelvey: Do you remember where they were located?
Mathewson: I'm not sure, but I think they were on the left-hand side of the door.
McKelvey: As you looked toward the race?
Mathewson: As you looked at the building standing from the road. On the side toward the bridge from the doorway.
McKelvey OK. I got you. I think that you've just answered half a dozen questions we have. Your memory is just incredible, Les. I thank you for it and would like to get back to you sometime to talk about it further if you don't mind.
Mathewson: I've been wanting to stop down and take a look to see what you're doing.
McKelvey: You know it will be operating in another month or so. We'll have a grand opening then. You should get down and take a look at it.
Mathewson: OK. I'll try to drop down there sometimes to see what's going on.
McKelvey: Sounds good. Take care, Les.
Mathewson: Right. Thanks a lot.