Pretty? No. But when was a power plant ever easy on the eyes? The Seaholm Power Plant, designed by Kansas City, Missouri, engineering firm Burns & McDonnell, was built in two phases in 1951 and in 1955 and evokes a streamlined Art Moderne style that was often applied to bus terminals and maritime buildings. Named after Walter E. Seaholm—a highly ranked figure within the City of Austin’s municipal offices for 33 years—the plant was Austin’s only source of power until 1959, when megawatt demands exceeded its capabilities. It closed in 1996 and remained dormant for nearly two decades.
The power plant was given new life in 2013, when redevelopments on the structure and the surrounding Seaholm District began. Inside the former turbine generator building, visitors can now dine at Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, and multiple tech companies have set up cheery, light-filled office spaces. The 7.8-acre development sports light installations, Trader Joe’s, True Food Kitchen and Seaholm Residences, a 30-story luxury condo complex. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Seaholm’s revamp is the new Central Library, a state-of-the-art learning center with a gallery space, reading porches and soon-to-open library café.