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Farewell to the Purdue HPN

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Farewell to the Purdue HPN

To make room for the new Active Learning Center, Purdue’s Heating Plant North (HPN) is slated for demolition. While they still had the chance, three of Applied’s Principals – Frank St. John, Terry DeBoo, and Ralph Power – recently toured the HPN, learning about its history and the critical role it used to play on campus. Below is Ralph’s take on the tour of this iconic 90-year-old facility.

The afternoon before the Purdue-Michigan basketball game, lost in the final half-second of overtime, a small group of us toured Purdue’s Heating Plant North. This beautiful facility in the heart of Purdue University’s campus was built for the expanding campus circa 1923 and was decommissioned in 1986. Over those 60+ years, this plant – with its iconic illuminated smoke stack – provided heating and electricity to serve the campus via a beautiful tunnel system.

What we saw with a little imagination was an era gone by, where a half dozen coal-fired, multi-story steam boilers were fed by an overhead coal bin on rails. These powerful yet simple machines were manually operated day in and day out by the very skilled craftsman of the day. The controls were minimal and simple.

While the top of the smokestack was removed brick-by-brick in the late 1990s, the massive base is still in the plant. The remnants of the coal ash cart and rail system could be seen running through a large opening in the base of the smokestack.

Now all is silent and, after years of sitting idle, this once proud heating and power plant will be demolished in 2014 to make way for future of learning at Purdue, the Active Learning Center.