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Hydroelectric Projects of Heart’s Delight Farm

William Henry Miner had numerous hydroelectric projects providing electricity to Heart’s Delight Farm and several Town of Chazy buildings. Beginning in 1907 with a series of dams on Tracy Brook in the town of Chazy. These dams created the reservoir known as Lake Alice. In 1911 construction of the Altona Dam, known locally as the Million Dollar Dam began on the southeast portion of the Altona Flat Rock. At 2300 feet long and  30-feet tall and a reservoir with a 1.5 billion gallons storage capacity, the dam was to be the largest ever constructed in Northern New York. Despite facing numerous setbacks, the project took only 24 months to complete with more than 500 workers on site. The Altona Hydroelectric Project began producing power in 1917 and operated successfully for several years. However, Miner realized the Altona Dam would not provide enough electricity for the growing needs of the Heart’s Delight Farm, Chazy Rural School, and other Town of Chazy buildings.

Consequently, William Miner began construction of what was perhaps his most elaborate hydroelectric project on McGregor Pond 1922. The 1500-foot slab and buttress dam with an additional 1800 feet for concrete wings and built-up earth on the sides stood along the Great Chazy River to dam up McGregor Pond as a reservoir. The dam stood at 35 feet and had an 80-foot spillway was added to facilitate the natural flow of the Great Chazy River. While it is often overshadowed by the “Million Dollar Dam” at the Altona Flat Rock, it is believed this project cost significantly more than the Flat Rock project.

Miner Lake, as the reservoir created by the dam is known today, is located at the junction of 190/Military Turnpike and Devils Den Road in the town of Altona, NY. The Great Chazy River, originating at Chazy Lake in Dannemora, feeds the lake before ending at Lake Champlain. At the base of the dam, a gatehouse controlled water intake through a 72-inch diameter penstock. The penstock, supplied by the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company for $56,000 was built with one-quarter inch steel. Expansion joints every 1,000 feet allowed for safe expansion and contraction of the penstock during temperature and pressure changes. The penstock carried water almost a mile along the Great Chazy River and down a 115-foot elevation drop. This created pressure known as the hydraulic head. Hydraulic head is simply a measurement of water pressure created by liquid surface elevation. 

A 124-foot tall Johnson Differential Surge Tank stood immediately upstream from the powerhouse over the Great Chazy River. The cost of the surge tank was $14,000 dollars. Placed between the penstock and powerhouse it was designed to manage rapid variations in water pressure called water hammer or hydraulic shock. If not managed, water hammer may cause the penstock to rupture or damage equipment in the penstock. The Johnson Differential Surge Tank created an air space for the water hammer thereby minimizing potential damage. The surge tank also held a constant reserve of water to facilitate turbine movement. 

Adjacent to the surge tank is the McGregor Powerhouse. As with Heart’s Delight Farm, William Miner did not construct a simple powerhouse. Instead, Miner commissioned an elaborate Spanish Mission-style building over the Great Chazy River. Designed by Miner’s own architect Frederick Townsend out of Chicago was as elaborate inside as it was out. The six-story powerhouse had furnished apartments on the three upper levels for workers operating the powerhouse to live with their families. There was also a wheel floor, a generator floor, and at the bottom, was the tailrace. The tailrace was designed to channel excess floodwaters through the powerhouse and not cause damage. 

The penstock entered the generator floor delivering water to three Worthington Pump and Machinery Corporation turbines. Two of the turbines were 500-horsepower and the third was 1000-horsepower. The 115-foot elevation drop from McGregor Dam to where the penstock entered the powerhouse created the force needed to turn the three turbines. These turbines were then connected to three generators. The voltage generated from these units was 2,300 volts on a three-phase 60 cycle system. 

The McGregor Hydroelectric System was later combined with the LaSell hydro system and the Chazy Lake Dam project produced a total of 3.6 megawatts of power. The Miner Foundation donated the powerhouse and surrounding land to the town of Altona in 1961. The land was renamed Feinberg Park. Today the powerhouse can still be seen from Devils Den Road. The dam is owned by New York State and currently designated as part of the Ganienkeh Indian Territory.

This online collection offers a broad array of images of Miner’s hydroelectric projects. However, there is an emphasis on the Altona Dam and the McGregor-LaSell projects as these were the most documented projects on the farm.

 

Hydroelectric Images From the Archives

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Archive Items

Bridge near McGregor power house and LaSell Dam, Altona

LaSell power house and pool, July 1927. From: Book 49 – Farm Scenes-Delord House-Hospital-Dams-Cattle (1925-28)

LaSell Power House, July 1927. From: Book 49 – Farm Scenes-Delord House-Hospital-Dams-Cattle (1925-28)

LaSell Dam Reservoir, July 1927. From: Book 49 – Farm Scenes-Delord House-Hospital-Dams-Cattle (1925-28)

LaSell Dam, July 1927. From: Book 49 – Farm Scenes-Delord House-Hospital-Dams-Cattle (1925-28)

McGregor Dam Reservoir, July 1927. From: Book 49 – Farm Scenes-Delord House-Hospital-Dams-Cattle (1925-28)

McGregor Dam, July 1927. From: Book 49 – Farm Scenes-Delord House-Hospital-Dams-Cattle (1925-28)

Flat Rock Dam, July 1927. From: Book 49 – Farm Scenes-Delord House-Hospital-Dams-Cattle (1925-28)

Reservoir at Flat Rock Dam, July 1927. From: Book 49 – Farm Scenes-Delord House-Hospital-Dams-Cattle (1925-28)

LaSell Power House and pool with surge tank in background. Photo by Mr. W.H.W. Strafford. From: Book 46 – Farm […]

LaSell Power House and pool with surge tank in background. Photo by Mr. W.H.W. Strafford. From: Book 46 – Farm […]

Front view of Village Power House, 1901. Also known as Hillbrook Cottage. From: Book 15- Dams and Power / Water […]

Village Dam, 1909. From: Book 15- Dams and Power / Water Supply

Chazy village dam pond, 1909. From: Book 15- Dams and Power / Water Supply

A full reservoir at the Chazy village dam, 1909. From: Book 15- Dams and Power / Water Supply

Lower Dam, 1909. From: Book 15- Dams and Power / Water Supply

McGregor Dam. From: Book 15- Dams and Power / Water Supply

Middle Dam and empty fore bay, 1908. Book 15- Dams and Power / Water Supply

Lake Alice with boat house in distance. From: Book 15- Dams and Power / Water Supply

Workers upload lumber from a cart on the crest of the Altona Dam. September 1911. From: Book 14- Altona Dam […]

Construction activity around dam wall, cribbing around structure, September 1911. From: Book 14- Altona Dam Vol. 2

Frank Hart at Altona Dam, April 1911. From: Book 14- Altona Dam Vol. 2

Altona Dam Basin/Reservoir, September 1914. From: Book 14- Altona Dam Vol. 2

Cement Road and Reservoir from north embankment/Cobblestone Hill, September 1913. From: Book 14- Altona Dam Vol. 2

Workers in trend to extend the cut off wall at Altona Dam, September 1913. From: (Book 14- Altona Dam Vol. […]

Workers pour cement on east bank of reservoir, September 1913. From: Book 14- Altona Dam Vol. 2

Low angle photo from the top of the Altona Dam wall looking east before the wall turns north. From: Book […]

Laying rock for the edge of the Cement Road on Cobblestone Hill, September 1913. From: Book 14- Altona Dam Vol. […]

Steam Shovel Trench. Steam Shovel Trench adjacent to dam wall. From: Book 14 – Altona Dam Vol. 2

Workers add mix into cement mixer with a cart on tracks. From: Book 14- Altona Dam Vol. 2

Spillway. From: Book 14- Altona Dam Vol. 2

Workers standing at a cross-section of the dam buttress, July 10, 1911. From: Book 14- Altona Dam Vol. 2

Dam buttresses. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Workers man the concrete mixer. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Workers at Cement Mixer and man with fur coat walking down ramp. March 1911. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. […]

Pipe on wood frame through construction area, June 1911. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Close up of construction at the Altona Flat Rock dam wall near the spillway outlet. 1911. From: Book 13- Altona […]

Pile of rocks, likely from Cobblestone Hill. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Work operating steam shovel and others on the ground. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Side view of steam shovel at Flat Rock. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Man pushing wheel barrow with other workers on rock pile in background, Altona Flat Rock Dam, March 1911. From: Book […]

Side profile of buttress form Altona Dam. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Crane system at the Altona Flat Rock Dam construction site. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Worker camp at Altona Flat Rock Dam construction site, January 1911. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1.

Camp at Altona Flat Rock dam, looking south, January 1911. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Altona Flat Rock Dam, April 1911. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Workings digging the trench for the Cutoff Wall at the Altona Flat Rock Dam, May 1911. From: Book 13- Altona […]

Close-up of the cribbing foundation for the cutoff wall at the Altona Flat Rock Dam, April 1911. From: Book 13- […]

Looking north from Cobblestone Hill at the Altona Flat Rock Dam construction, May 1911. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. […]

Looking west at the Altona Flat Rock Dam construction site, April 1911. From: Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1

Visitors inspect the Altona Flat Rock Dam, August 1911. (Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1), Well-dressed ladies back right

Looking northeast during rebar installation at the Altona Dam, April 1911. From: “Book 13- Altona Dam Vol. 1”

Surveying at Tracy Brook for the Lake Alice hydroelectric project, 1907. From: “Book 10 Panoramic Views Vol. 1”

Men surveying at Tracy Brook for the Lake Alice hydroelectric project, 1907

Penstock for the McGregor hydroelectric power project with power house construction in background