The Pettibone Creek Powerhouse is perhaps the only venue in the Village of Milford that’s harder to get to see than the Museum, so persistence isi n order. The museum is open two days a week for about 8 months of the year, but the Powerhouse is currently only open on special events and about 10-12 times total all year long. Hopefully that will change in the not too distant future and the Powerhouse will become more available for the citizens of the Village.
The Pettibone Creek Powerhouse is located in the north side of Central park, between the baseball field and the upper level parking lot. You can park in the upper lot and walk over or you can get to it off West Liberty St (which runs east and west off Cabinet St) and park in front of the building. That’s just about as close as you’ll get currently, since it is fenced off to prevent vandalism. It’s also fenced to prevent people from falling into the little waterfalls next to the Powerhouse, where the mill pond spills into a short creek run leading to the Huron River.
Henry Ford had the Powerhouse built in 1939 to provide electricity to the Ford Carburetor Plant in Milford. That plant was a part of his “Village Industries” initiative of that era. You can read more about the era and the Powerhouse itself at the Milford Historical Society Web site or at the site that the Friends of the Powerhouse have set up. The facility is known by several names. The Milford Historical Society uses the name Pettibone Creek Powerhouse because the the water source for the generation of power is actually Lower Pettibone Lake to the north of the Village. A 48” diameter ½” thick pipe runs under the north side of Milford delivering water to the powerhouse. It does not take water from the mill pond right next to it.
When Henry Ford was building the various plants and infrastructure for them he often used a Detroit friend and architect Albert Kahn to design the buildings. The Pettibone Creek Powerhouse is an Albert Kahn design. The Village of Milford had designated the building to be demolished when the Milford Historical Society stepped in and requested that they be allowed to save and restore it. A multi-year project, involving several grants and lots of local fund-raising resulted to the complete restoration of the exterior of the building and the cleanup of the interior. While the interior no longer has the turbines and control equipment that once generated power for the Ford plant, it is interesting to tour and you can still see the Lower Pettibone Lake water coursing thought the turbine housings.
Currently, a group has formed and preliminary work has been done to see if the Powerhouse can once again be made to generate power. Engineering feasibility studies have identified the types of new turbines that would be required, the flow rate and power generation rates that could be sustained and have explored the economics of the venture. It is estimated that the old Pettibone Creek Powerhouse, if refitted to generate power could generate enough power to supply the majority of the power required to operate Milford’s municipal water pumping, with the excess to be sold back into the power grid. It’s an exciting prospect that has a lot of local people pulling for it.
If you’d like to schedule a group through to see the Powerhouse or you’re interested in supporting the work to get the Powerhouse generating power again, contact Rich Harrison at 248-935-5556. If you’d like an idea about what you’ll see, there is a virtual tour at the Powerhouse Web site. Click here to view that tour.