Pettibone Creek Hydroelectric Station

Restoration Project

Milford, Michigan



May 22, 2001

Prepared by: Glenn Rittenger, PE

  288 Hill St.

   Milford, MI 48381

  248 685-1011

Table of Contents

              Page 1

Introduction      1

Program Objective     2

Background      3

Building Requirements    5

Site Requirements     7

Flume and Spillway Requirements  9

Power Generation Requirements   11

Maintenance Requirements   16

Estimated Cost Outline    17

Immediate Requirements and Priorities  19

Exhibits      20INTRODUCTION

The Village of Milford was founded in 1832 at the location where the Pettibone Creek empties into the Huron River.  The site was selected because of its available water power.  

At least fourteen mill sites are known to have existed in the village and township.  Today, all that remains are historic markers and old photographs.

The Ford Motor Company, Pettibone Creek Hydro-Electric Station is the last and only remaining building of this water power era.


The structure, known as the Ford Powerhouse, is owned by the Village of Milford and is located in the community’s Central Park.  The building is recognized as having historic significance and the Village has sought assistance in planning and funding its renovation.  A requisite of the project is that the renovation should provide useable, revenue-producing space to offset additional operational and maintenance costs incurred by the Village.

The Milford Historical Society has named the Milford Village Ford Powerhouse Restoration Committee to work with the Village of Milford in restoring the building and determining a use that would be beneficial for both the Village and the community.  The committee’s goal is to historically restore the building, meeting the Secretary of the Interior’s Standard Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings; to prepare the building for occupancy and use consistent with applicable Parks and Recreation zoning; and to provide for interpretation of the site.

The intent of this report is to outline the general requirements necessary to restore the building meeting these objectives.  This report also presents information on the requirements to utilize the existing infrastructure and available water power to generate electricity.  The generated power would be utilized for the building, the municipal well house, iron extraction plant and park lighting; to provide a utility cost savings for the Village.

The results of this plan would be approximately 700 square feet of barrier free space on the main level of the building, with a barrier free unisex toilet room.  The basement would contain what exists there today as well as the new mechanical and electrical equipment required for the operation of the building and power generation.  The surge tank would remain in the tower of the building.  The basement and tower levels would not be barrier free compliant.


The Pettibone Creek Hydroelectric Station was built by Ford Motor Company in 1939, in conjunction with the Huron River Station, to supply power for the new carburetor plant.  The Milford Plant was Henry Ford’s twelfth in his series of “Village Industry” projects that utilized existing mill sites to generate electrical power for the manufacturing plants.

The Pettibone Station was powered by a 48 inch steel flume, or pipe, that was installed from the station to the south end of Moore Lake.  The length of the flume is approximately 3400 feet. The total power that can be derived from a hydroelectric plant is based on the total head pressure or elevation of the water and the available water flow.  The installation of the flume took advantage of the series of mill pond dams on Pettibone creek to achieve a 50 foot head of water to operate the station.

Once inside the building, the 48 inch diameter pipe is split to feed two hydraulic turbines in the basement.  A shaft then connected each turbine to a generator located on the main level.  The two generators were rated at 75 and 62.5 KVA.  When synchronized with the other sources, the power was distributed to the manufacturing plant via underground cables across the lower mill pond.  Both hydroelectric stations could be operated from the control room in the manufacturing plant.

The large tank in the tower of the Pettibone station is connected to the 48 inch flume in the basement and acted as a surge suppressor to absorb the shock of the moving water when the turbine gates closed.

The Pettibone Station was decommissioned around 1953 and acquired by the Village of Milford in 1970.  Since it's retirement, much of the original equipment has been removed or vandalized.  Presently there is water flowing through the flume and turbine casings from Moore Lake and is discharged into the creek below the station.  

The station is located at 225 West Liberty Street (Sidwell Number 16-10-279-003) on the northwest corner of Central Park. A baseball field is on the west side of the building and the Lower Mill Pond is on the north.  Main Street is approximately 600 feet from the building.  Presently there is a chain link fence surrounding the building and the widows and doors have been boarded up.

Wade-Trim Associates, Inc. was commissioned by the Village of Milford in 1998 to perform a structural investigation of the building.  In their report dated July 13, 1998, they stated the building's structure appears to be in good condition and recommended several modifications.  These are identified in the building requirements section of this report.

The Manufacturing Plant and Hydroelectric Stations were designed by Albert Kahn Inc., Detroit, Michigan, Job No. 1726.  Albert Kahn designed many buildings for Ford as well as the Fisher Building, General Motors Building and several buildings for the University of Michigan.  Some of the original drawings for the manufacturing plant and flume construction are on file at Albert Kahn’s office. The drawings for the Pettibone Station have not been located.  The building is a contributing structure in the North Milford Village National Historic District recently approved by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office.

Cornerstone Architects have been hired to provide pre-planning services for the project.  They have surveyed the site and presented ideas for the renovation, which included public toilet rooms in the basement.  However, due to the barrier free access requirements and the existing piping that would have to be modified, it appears that this option is not cost effective.


The following information outlines the general renovation requirements for the building structure, both exterior and interior.

1. Asbestos and Lead Abatement

  1. Remove all the asbestos containing material from the building.  
  1. While the containment area is in place for the asbestos abatement, scrape and remove all loose paint from the structure and steel components.

2. Masonry Repairs

  1. Remove and replace cracked or severely weathered brick with new brick to match existing size and color.
  1. Repair any cracked or deteriorated mortar joints by removing existing mortar and re-tuck pointing.
  2. Provide stabilization of limestone details.
  3. Replace damaged and missing glass block on the upper level walls.
  4. Replace the brick pilasters on the first floor that are supporting the W27 roof beam.
  5. Clean the masonry and stone

3. Roof Replacement

  1. Remove existing roofing system down to concrete deck.
  1. Install new insulation and single membrane roofing system.
  2. Install a new roof hatch for the tower roof.

4. Selective Demolition

  1. Remove brick and wood in-fills at the window and door openings
  1. Remove existing equipment, piping, ductwork, conduit and wire not suitable for reuse or preservation.

5. Windows & Doors

  1. Install new windows to match original installation with insulated glass in narrow line thermally broken metal frames.
  1. Install a new store front entrance system to match original with insulated glass.
  2. Install new FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) door and frame at lower level entrance.

6. Stair Handrails

  1. Repair existing and construct new handrail for the basement stairs and the stair opening on the main level.

7. Quarry Tile Floor

  1. Install a new 4"x4" quarry tile floor to match original installation.

8. Toilet Room

  1. Construct new barrier free unisex toilet room on the main level for tenant use.

9. Prep and Paint

  1. Prep and paint the new and existing walls and ceilings.
  1. Sand blast and paint the existing structural steel, piping and miscellaneous steel components in the building.

10. Plumbing, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning

  1. Install new plumbing fixtures, water heater and piping for new toilet room and sink on the main level.
  1. HVAC Option 1 – Install a new high efficiency natural gas boiler and associated piping and components for a hot water heating system including fin tube radiation and a small air handling unit with a heating coil and DX coil for air conditioning.
  2. HVAC Option 2 (lower cost) – Install a high efficiency natural gas forced air furnace and air conditioning unit with associated duct work to serve all floors.

11. Lighting, Power & Communications

  1. Install a new distribution panel and general convenience receptacles throughout building.  Where feasible, existing conduit imbedded in walls and slabs can be used.  Exposed EMT conduit to be used for all new wiring.
  1. Install new light fixtures on all levels and outside. Try to match existing fixtures on the main level.
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