In 1928 the city constructed what would be its last power plant. While it may be hard to believe, the W.R. Ellis Company completed the building for only $10,900! The architect, Frank P. Gates, received $498 for his work. Prior to this time, the city of Oxford received electricity from a power plant located near the University of Mississippi campus (by the Depot). This location, however, was prone to flooding in heavy rains, which was one reason for the construction of a new plant.
According to the Oxford Eagle, the new power plant contained $50,000 worth of new equipment, which increased the new plant’s capacity from 250 horsepower to 750 horsepower.
In 1933 Oxford officials decided to build an addition onto the plant, which included a new concrete reservoir that would improve the city waterworks system. This addition also held Oxford’s pumping machinery and equipment.
Corless E. Harrison, who was the last superintendent of the old power plant, became the first superintendent of the new one. During World War II he also served as acting mayor for almost three years because the elected mayor had departed to serve in the US navy. During this time Harrison remained superintendent of the plant.
In 1950 Oxford signed a contract with Tennessee Valley Authority in order to receive wholesale electricity if the city built a new electric power substation and transmission line. Oxford’s voters approved this and the TVA began delivering electricity to Oxford in January of 1951. The power plant only provided electricity during an interim period when the TVA could not provide enough. In March 1952, the TVA became the sole provider of electricity in Oxford, and the power plant was relegated to a storage warehouse.
In 2008 the old power plant became the Powerhouse Community Arts Center, and it is now the home of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. This historic building serves as a venue for theater and art classes, performances, and community events. Once filled with the hum of machinery generating energy, the building now resonates with the artistic energy of performers and artists.
Whether you are looking to host a wedding, private party, or corporate retreat, the Powerhouse is the place. It features two spacious rooms, the Gallery and the Theatre, which are 40 by 70 feet. Both rooms have 24-foot ceilings and exposed vintage brick. Smaller, more intimate events may only need one room, while larger events can take advantage of the full space and host functions for nearly 850 people. The Theatre has a stage for a band and space for dancing.
The Powerhouse boasts a historic beauty that can be easily adapted for any event. You can even customize the space by hanging chandeliers, lanterns, or other decorations from the ceiling. Don’t be afraid to ask!
The power plant is the heart of a city, without it the city could not function. Today, the Powerhouse is the heart of Lafayette County’s artistic community, and as the heart is essential to the body, we here at the Arts Council feel that we provide an essential service to the artists and artistic organizations in our community.