Located a short distance from "old town" Folsom (and an easy walk from Sutter Street), the Folsom Powerhouse was the first hydroelectric power plant in the United States to produce electricity of a sufficient voltage to be transmitted long distances. The 11,000 volts of electricity produced at the powerhouse was sent 22 miles to Sacramento.
The citizens of Sacramento celebrated the 1895 opening of the powerhouse with a "grand electric carnival" parade. The festivities included a 100-gun salute from a detachment of soldiers near the substation.
The Folsom powerhouse was a technological wonder, and was called "the greatest operative electrical plant on the American continent”. The powerhouse was built by H.P. Livermore of the Natoma Water and Mining Co., and some of the labor was provided by inmates from nearby Folsom Prison.
Massive transformers built by General Electric were used at the plant, which was in continuous operation until 1952. After the powerhouse was decommissioned P.G. & E. donated the site to the state of California, and it became a state park. (To get an online map use the park's street address: 9980 Greenback Lane, Folsom, CA.)
Inside the powerhouse visitors can see the generators, transformers, and the switchboard, which is faced with Tennessee marble. Outside the building, and clearly visible from the street, are the forebays and canal system that carried water from the American River to the powerhouse.
Cameras used for the Folsom Powerhouse photos