About the Powerhouse
In September 1906 final amendments were made to the articles of incorporation for the Desert Power & Water Company with the offices of the Territory of Arizona. Construction of the powerplant commenced in 1907 and the oil-fired generators went online in July 1909 sparking a dramatic transformation throughout Mohave County.
A quest for a return on investment resulted in the first power lines being strung along the National Old Trails Road to the mines at Goldroad and Oatman. Surprisingly, Kingman residents and business were initially reluctant to invest in electrifying homes or businesses. And so, when J.E. Perry became the first resident to connect his home to the power plant it was a front-page story in the Mohave Miner.
When Arizona became a state in 1912, many homes and businesses were still depending on coal oil lamps. Even the Harvey House was not electrified until the summer of that year.
As infrastructure was built to supply electricity to Kingman, mines in the Cerbat, Black, and Peacock Mountains, and to surrounding communities the capacity of the powerplant was soon overwhelmed. In mid-December 1911, a major expansion of the facility was nearing completion with the delivery of new boilers and generators. An article published on December 16 noted that, quote, “…more than 500,000 pounds of new equipment for the Desert Power & Water Company is in the yard on the way from Milwaukee. The flywheel for the new engine weighs over 4,000 pounds. The new boilers will give the plant more than 3,000 additional horsepower.”
In 1922, a small showroom was added to the facility. On display were the latest in-home radios and equipment. An advertisement published in the Miner noted that James F. Davidson, would be managing the radio department. It was also noted that in addition to radios, Davidson could assist with the ordering of parts to build a radio or transmission station, as well as installation.
In September 1927 it was announced that plans had been finalized for the sale of the facility. From the Mohave Miner, “W.B. Foshay Company will be making improvements to the recently purchased Desert Power & Water Company powerplant and modernize transmission lines.” In addition, the Foshay Company established Public Utilities Consolidated Corporation as a management company subsidiary.
In 1935 the powerplant and its infrastructure was included in a sale to Citizens Utilities Company. When the generators went online at Hoover Dam in 1938, the former Desert Power & Water Company was mothballed as a standby facility. In 1940 the powerplant was dismantled with generators and equipment either sold or sold as scrap metal. Citizens Utilities Company used the building and grounds for the storage of equipment such as transformers and power poles.
In the early 1980s the property was sold, and it was converted into a recycling center. In 1984 the Powerhouse Gang was incorporated as a nonprofit and assessment was made about the structure’s integrity, and how best to repurpose the historic facility. In 1990, Toby Orr of Orr Construction took the helm of the Powerhouse Gang and restoration commenced.
A Route 66 Museum is operated on the second floor by Mohave Museum of History & Arts. The Kingman tourism offices and gift shop are also housed at the Powerhouse Visitor Center. The offices of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona and their gift shop is also housed in the facility.
In the summer of 2014, The 66 Kid exhibit was added to the mezzanine. This multifaceted exhibition includes artwork and childhood relics from artist Bob Boze Bell of True West magazine. It includes home movies of Kingman and the service station his father operated in the 1950s and 1960s.
That same summer the city hosted the Route 66 International Festival that had as its theme Kingman: Crossroads of the Past & Future. The festival included the debut of an embryonic electric vehicle museum at the Powerhouse Visitor Center that was facilitated as a limited partnership between the City of Kingman and Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation. Then in the winter of 2021 ground was broken for installation of a Tesla charging station.