Lawrenceburg No. 2 Hydroelectric Station, Lawrenceburg Tennessee

Date added: October 13, 2023 Categories: Tennessee Power Plant Hydroelectric Power
Looking east, view of non-overflow and overflow section of dam and powerhouse (1989)

The Lawrenceburg No. 2 Hydroelectric Station is a local hydroelectric engineering project typical of the kind being constructed on Tennessee's smaller rivers in the early twentieth century. Its engineering, by the Nashville firm of Freeland, Roberts and Co., is remarkable in that it is conceptually unique and also one of four extant hydroelectric sites designed by the firm for use on the smaller rivers of Middle Tennessee, namely the three sites on the Duck River in the 1920s, Lillard's Mill, Columbia, and the Shelbyville stations.

The site was a municipally-built, owned, and operated facility, and was important in the political and industrial development of this locality of the state's history. That is, it is closely associated with the so-called "Progressive Era" in Tennessee's and America's early-twentieth-century history. It was a time when citizens, reacting to a widely held distrust by the voting public concerning the destructive power of monopoly, frequently opted for the alternative of community rather than private ownership of public utilities.

Site Description

The Lawrenceburg, or Shoal Creek, No. 2 Hydroelectric Station is located in rural Lawrence County (population 34,110), near the county seat of Lawrenceburg. It is located about two and one-half miles southwest of Lawrenceburg, at Mile 51.7 on Shoal Creek. The site is reached by means of a secondary road off Old U.S. Highway 43, about one-half mile north of the UCAR Carbon Company plant.

By 1915, Lawrenceburg No. 1 (Shoal Creek No. 1) could no longer supply the needs of the city, and it was recognized that a second plant should be built approximately 1.8 miles downstream from the existing hydroelectric facility. Lawrenceburg No. 2, built in 1924 by the Nashville firm of Freeland, Roberts & Co., is in some ways a uniquely conceived structure. The concrete non-overflow section is fifty-four feet long at Elevation 103.75, while it is 153 feet long at crest Elevation 101.75. The concrete ogee spillway measures fifty-eight feet in length at Elevation 100.0, and the concrete buttressed powerhouse is forty-two and one-half feet long. The fishladder measures eighteen feet at Elevation 105.0, while the non-overflow section at Elevation 102.0 is ten feet long. The concrete non-overflow section at Elevation 104.0 is forty feet long, while the earthen embankment at Elevation 110.0 is 100 feet long. In the dam-block adjacent to the spillway are two sluices, controlled by four steel headgates six feet high by two feet, eight inches wide.

The fishladder is a multi-chambered structure. Water passes through two rectangular orifices on the upstream face and then cascades down thirteen steps to the powerhouse tailwater. Flow through the ladder is presently blocked by a steel plate at the inlet to the first step. The dam straddling the creek has a one-hundred-foot-long earthen embankment with a crest width of twelve feet and side slopes of 1.5 horizontal to 1.0 vertical. The right end of the embankment ties to a concrete gravity retaining wall adjoining the concrete non-overflow section. This wall was repaired in 1960. Within the embankment is a narrow concrete core wall that extends to the rock. The crest of the embankment forms the access to the powerhouse which sits upon a series of seven reinforced concrete stilts of varying lengths which rest upon the trapezoidal spillway section on the southern side of the dam. The powerhouse of Lawrenceburg No. 2 is of steel-reinforced concrete and brick, and is a single-story reinforced concrete and brick building with floor elevation at 110. It is supported on reinforced concrete columns extending to the substructure buttresses. There are two intakes through the upstream face of the substructure that are controlled by concrete headgates. Along with its older sister, Lawrenceburg No. 1, Lawrenceburg No. 2 pre-TVA hydroelectric site operated as a municipal public utility until 1939 when the TVA began increasingly to provide electricity to the city. In the 1940s, Lawrenceburg No. 1 ceased operation and the second plant was abandoned a few years later. Lawrenceburg No. 2 is today owned by Union Carbide, Inc.

Lawrenceburg No. 2 Hydroelectric Station, Lawrenceburg Tennessee Looking northwest, view of dam showing overflow and non-overflow sections and portion of powerhouse (1989)
Looking northwest, view of dam showing overflow and non-overflow sections and portion of powerhouse (1989)

Lawrenceburg No. 2 Hydroelectric Station, Lawrenceburg Tennessee Looking east, view of non-overflow and overflow section of dam and powerhouse (1989)
Looking east, view of non-overflow and overflow section of dam and powerhouse (1989)

Lawrenceburg No. 2 Hydroelectric Station, Lawrenceburg Tennessee Looking northwest, view of Powerhouse and unique support columns and fishladder (1989)
Looking northwest, view of Powerhouse and unique support columns and fishladder (1989)

Lawrenceburg No. 2 Hydroelectric Station, Lawrenceburg Tennessee Looking east, view of Powerhouse, fishladder, and overflow section of dam (1989)
Looking east, view of Powerhouse, fishladder, and overflow section of dam (1989)

Lawrenceburg No. 2 Hydroelectric Station, Lawrenceburg Tennessee Looking southwest, upstream portion of facility showing powerhouse, powerhouse access ramp and portion of non-overflow section of dam (1989)
Looking southwest, upstream portion of facility showing powerhouse, powerhouse access ramp and portion of non-overflow section of dam (1989)