The historic Comal Power Plant building in New Braunfels, Texas, originated in 1925 as a hydroelectric power plant, supplying power not only to the New Braunfels and San Antonio area, but to every power grid east of the Rocky Mountains. In 1927, it was the largest power plant in the world burning pulverized lignite coals as fuel, and switched to natural gas in 1928.
As a Great Depression relief project, President Roosevelt established the Rural Electrification Agency, in which the plant took part in spreading power to rural areas and farms. During World War II, Comal Power Plant played an important role in the massive mobilization of industrial power needed to win the war by supplying power to military installations.
Blackout orders from the War Department mandated that all windows be sealed to prevent light leakage and that the plant run at full capacity 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The plant continued to serve the community despite setbacks that included the drought of the 1950s, the 1970s energy crisis and various floods, until it ceased operations in 1973. After sitting vacant nearly 30 years, the LCRA performed an environmental remediation on the site and building.
Upon completion, the Larry Peel Company purchased the building to renovate into lofts and build garden apartments on the surrounding grounds. The Comal Power Plant building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of Interior and has received Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation by the Texas Historical Commission.
May 15, 1860
Joseph and Helena Landa purchase a flour mill on the Comal Canal. Their expanded operations later include the Landa Power Plant, which provides the first electric lights to New Braunfels.
Harry Landa sells his canal adjacent property and businesses to the Comal Power Company.
Aug. 18, 1925
Comal Power Plant construction begins.
Nov. 1, 1926
Construction is complete. Comal Power Plant is the largest coal fired generating station west of the Mississippi River.
1928 – 1929
The second turbine and third boiler is installed.
Fourth boiler is installed, markedly raising output and aids the war effort. Blackout orders issued by the War Department require every window be sealed.
Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) gains control of the power plant.
Due to drought conditions, a redwood cooling tower is built over the riverbed. Later, a flood backs river water and debris into the building’s lower floors.
LCRA buys the Comal Power Plant from the City of San Antonio.
Comal Power Plant ceases operations.
Aug. 20, 2004
Comal Power Plant is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and receives Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation.
Developer Larry Peel renovates the Comal Power Plant building and grounds into 110 Landmark Lofts and 178 Garden Apartments on surrounding property. Many original building details, such as the 100-ton crane, remain intact today.