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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • VINTAGE CHRISTMAS ART

Gas Giant: 1937

Gas Giant: 1937

        An old-school gasworks (back in the days before the widespread use of natural gas) where coal was heated to produce "city gas" or "illuminating gas," which was so poisonously toxic that people inhaled it to commit suicide ("taking the gas pipe"). The tank-like structure, called a gasometer or gas holder, telescoped up and down depending on how much gas was inside, its weight serving to pressurize the system and push gas through the lines.

1937. "Charlotte Street Gas Works, Charleston, South Carolina." 8x10 inch acetate negative by Frances Benjamin Johnston. View full size.

 

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They Don't Tear Anything Down in Charleston

Looks like part of the building is still there.

Gas Holders

The plant I worked in had ten gas holders of varying sizes to store argon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and a few other gases. Several were still in use into the late 1970s.

Toxic for decades

These coal gas plants (sometimes called 'manufactured gas' plants) were so noxious that many former locations are still toxic sites decades after being shut down, now needing extensive decontamination.

I watched one such site being rehabilitated in Marin County for use as affordable housing. The process took over a year and required the removal of 28,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.

No Smoking!

I hope the tank was maintained to a higher standard than the adjoining brick building appears to be!

Still Energetic!

Building is still there, now an electric substation:

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