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Seattle's most electrifying historic site

One of the city's least known but most fascinating relics is free and open to the public. #k5evening

SEATTLE — Inside a massive building at the edge of Boeing Field, steel and steam tell the century-old story of a city on the rise.

Michael Aronowitz is a Seattle City Light employee and a bit of a historian when it comes to this 80-foot-tall engineering marvel.

"All of this equipment in here, it's all original," he said. "It's in great condition."

Completed in 1907, the Georgetown Steam Plant was built to generate electricity for Seattle's streetcars and provide extra power when the city's grid was working at peak capacity.

"Really unique pieces of history right here," Aronowitz said, looking across the vast expanse of equipment that still covers the plant's 20,000 square feet.

Huge boilers fueled by oil, and sometimes coal, created high-pressure steam.

"And then that steam came into this room where we are now, which is the engine room," he said, gesturing to a 40-foot-high cylinder of steel wrapped in pipes and ductwork.  

"Spin those turbines and generate electric current," he explained.

Last used in the early 1950s, this historic site is a virtually untouched time capsule.

"When you come in here it looks like it would have to someone who was in here in 1907," Aronowitz said.

The only full-timers on site these days are the occasional spirits.

"I can't reveal where the ghosts are. We have a deal. I won't reveal their location and they won't do anything too bad to me," he joked.

Now leased to a local nonprofit for restoration and continued public use, it's a haven for visiting artists, photographers, and history buffs, a cathedral dedicated to the can-do spirit of Seattle's first century.

"It's a great community resource," Aronowitz said. "This is real, living history here."

The Georgetown Steam Plant is located at 6605 13th Ave. S. in Seattle. It's open for free public tours every second Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To make a day of it, pair your visit with the neighborhood's monthly art walk, "Art Attack," which also takes place on second Saturdays.

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