In 2016 the Deadwood Historical Commission hired a local mason with expertise in historic masonry to reconstruct this section of the 135″ B & M Powerhouse smokestack using radial brick collected on site. This section has a 9′-3″ outside radius and reflects the smokestack size about a third of the way up the stack. When the smokestack was built the masons used an alternating running bond brick pattern similar to the one shown here. The smokestack was reinforced by at least two cast iron rings that were set around the lower portion of the structure. The two rings can now rest in the Dynamo Pit inside the foundation of the Powerhouse.
The B & M Powerhouse smokestack vented three coal powered asbestos covered boilers. The boilers created enough steam to rotate a turbine, powering two generators, called Dynamos, which converted mechanical rotation into electric power using electromagnetism. These dynamos produced direct current (DC) power.
Radial bricks were invented in Europe in the 1800s. These bricks allowed the construction of smokestacks of greater heights using a smaller base diameters and much more efficient use of materials. The bricks are curved to a specific radius and are perforated, allowing mortar to penetrate the brick, adding strength to the structure. Most radial brick smokestacks were designed to vent gasses with temperatures ranging from 300 – 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. This chimney was likely built with a partial liner of firebrick that extended about 20 feet above the furnace, or breeching, opening.
Smokestacks of this type are classified as “thrown up” or constructed from the inside out. Bricks and mortar were hoisted by hand. Wood scaffolds erected on the interior of the smokestacks supported the masons while the hod carriers or “hoddies” fetched the materials. Radial brick chimneys are no longer built today. They were gradually replaced by reinforced concrete construction, but some radial brick chimneys are still used today after 100 years service.
If you look very closely at the inside faces of the radial brick you might see something that looks familiar – fingerprints captured in the clay. Do they look small to you? They should – they are the fingerprints of a juvenile. At the turn of the century, 18% of all American workers were under the age of 16. At that time American children worked in mines, factories, and at other manual jobs to help support their families. This practice peaked in the early 1900’s until the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, setting federal standards for child labor. These standards included restrictions on the types of work children under 18 could perform and on children under the age of 16 working during school hours.
The Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission.
44° 22.318′ N, 103° 43.725′ W. Marker is in Deadwood, South Dakota, in Lawrence County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Charles Street (CanAm Highway) (U.S. 85) and Cedar Lane, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is located inside the reconstructed smokestack exhibit, near the north end of Deadwood’s Powerhouse Park, along the Whitewood Creek boardwalk and trail, about 0.1 mile north of the George S. Mickelson Trailhead and west of the trailhead parking lot. Marker is at or near this postal address: 32 Charles Street, Deadwood SD 57732, United States of America.