The first electric power in Redwood Falls came from August Burmeister’s flour mill by the Redwood River.
It was simple: just hook a generator to the water wheel that spun the gears that ground the wheat, and you’ve got electricity.
At first, Burmeister only provided electricity for the downtown section of Redwood, and only for a few hours in the early morning and late evening.
By 1909, demand for power was heavy enough that Burmeister constructed a separate power plant a few hundred yards down the river from his mill.
The plant was added onto drastically over the years, taking on coal and gasoline generators in addition to the reliable hydro-power generator.
When the plant was sold to the city for half a million dollars in 1946, it served the city, nearly 200 farm sites, and the cities of Delhi and North Redwood.
As for Burmeister’s original hydro-electric generator, it plugged along providing power for dozens of Redwood Falls houses until just a year or so ago.
When it became too difficult to get replacement antique parts for the generator, the city decided to replace it with a new one.
Unfortunately, that meant the old 1909 part of the building wasn’t necessary any more. In fact, it was in the way.
After over a year of planning, Burmeister’s original 1909 building was demolished Thursday.
One hang up was environmental concerns. The old plant still had asbestos and coal dust that had to be dealt with — especially with a river just yards away.
When the debris is hauled away, much of the old iron work can be recycled. Then construction crews can set to work creating a new, state-of-the-art hydro-electric power generator for a new generation.