Acetylene Gas Generating Station – Herndon, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

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Acetylene Gas Generating Station

The birthplace of the Herndon Gas Company.  

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The Herndon Gas Company was started in early 1900 by brothers Dr. Edwin and Dr. Benjamin Detwiler. It provided gas to power the streetlights in downtown Herndon and for a few of the more affluent households in town, including the brother’s homes. 

To produce the gas, calcium carbide was added to a hopper and gravity fed into a lower water tank. After dissolving in the water, the carbide produced acetylene gas, distributed through a piping system to street lights or homes.

The replica inside the station represents a 35-light generator that provided enough gas to illuminate 35 lights, or 30 lights and a two-burner stove. This type of unit was recharged once per month.

This building is one of three known gas-generating buildings in Herndon. These buildings were made of concrete and specially designed to implode rather than explode as a safety precaution.

The Detwiler brothers were innovators. Aside from the gas company, Edwin was responsible for erecting the first telephone pole in town.

Know Before You Go

Edwin's name was initially misspelled "Edward" on the plaque affixed to the gas generating station, but this has been corrected by the Herndon Historical Society.

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