The River Makes Electricity

The River Makes Electricity (HM5MB)

Location: Catonsville, MD 21228 Baltimore County
Country: United States of America

N 39° 14.861', W 76° 45.619'

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Bloede Dame

The Patapsco Electric & Manufacturing Company, organized by Victor Gustav Bloede, harnessed the river's waterpower to generate electricity. Completed in 1907, the Bloede Dam furnished electricity for Ellicott City, Catonsville, Carroll, Halethorpe, Arbutus, St. Denis, Elkridge, and parts west of Baltimore until 1924.

Bloede's company needed an innovative design that would not flood large areas upstream. They built the turbines and generating equipment inside a small dam, making Bloede Dam the world's first submerged hydroelectric plant. This cutting edge design has highly efficient in producing electricity.

While the dam's design solved one problem, it created another. Water intakes in the wall of the dam quickly became clogged with silt, because erosion of soil from the tree-less hillsides surrounding the river made the river run muddy. Tree roots help hold soil in place, especially on steep terrain.

Bloede became aware of the need to reforest the Patapsco Valley for his company to provide electricity to local residents, an indication that a conservationist mindset was growing among Baltimore's urban leaders. The Patapsco Forest Reserve, which is now Patapsco Valley State Park, was established in 1907 to begin reforestation.

"The steep slopes along the river that have been cultivated in years past have largely contributed to the accumulation of silt which has collected behind the dams" forcing operators to expend "large sums of money for dredging." - F.W. Besley, State Forester, 1915.

Text with main photo: Bloede Dam in the mid-1900s. The towers were added around 1915.

Text with middle left photo: A 1916 Board of Forestry photo shows silt collected behind Bloede Dam.

Text with lower left photo: Bloede Dam in 1907.

Text with lower right photo: An interior view of the dam.

HM NumberHM5MB
Placed ByMaryland Department of Natural Resources, Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, September 5th, 2014 at 12:31pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 348099 N 4345739
Decimal Degrees39.24768333, -76.76031667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 14.861', W 76° 45.619'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 14' 51.66" N, 76° 45' 37.14" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)410, 443, 202, 301
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 6314-6344 Grist Mill Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park, Catonsville MD 21228, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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