History of the Cookeville Electric Department
Electric power first came to Cookeville about 1904. The power plant was located near the old city fire hall. There were a lot of breakdowns and expenses were great. The primary use of this plant was for street lighting. Those fortunate enough to have lights in their homes were not allowed to burn them during the daylight hours. Years later, the plant became outdated and was constantly in need of repair.
The commissioners began making plans to take care of some of the problems. A new power plant was to be designed by an engineer who was familiar with this type of problems and large enough to take care of future needs.
On November 20, 1919, Burgess Falls was sold to the City of Cookeville. Mr. John A. Switzer was hired in May, 1921, as City Engineer. Mr. Switzer was a Professor of Engineering at the University of Tennessee. He would prepare plans for the new power plant.
In December 1921, the local paper reported completion of the new power plant was a few days away. The poles were in place, some testing needed to be done and Cookeville was about to enter a big change.
The first dam was completed in 1922. The dam was 26 feet high and 310 feet long and had a concrete section and an earthfill section with a concrete core wall. The project used the dam to divert the flow of the Falling Water River through a flume to a power house located below Burgess Falls. It had a 500 HP turbine with a 360 kw generator.
On June 29, 1928, flood waters washed the dam away and destroyed the power house. According to some correspondence, some modifications were to be made around the time the dam was washed away. During the time a new power plant and dam was being built, Cookeville received power from Tennessee Tech (Tennessee Polytechnic Institute) who generated their own power, and also from Tennessee Electric Power Company.
The new dam and power house were completed by September, 1929. The dam is a concrete gravity structure 30 feet high and 336 feet long. The spillway is an ogee crest 180 feet long with seven slide gates approximately 5 feet high by 20 feet wide.
The new power house flooded some more in later years and ruined the large generator. The city was buying some power from Tennessee Electric Power Company when TVA started selling power to the city in November, 1944.