When Todd R. Cole purchased this old PG&E power plant building 17 years ago, it had no central heating, closets, garage or even a kitchen. It's in a floodplain, a fire zone and a landslide area, and it sits on top of an active earthquake fault. "You asked me why I wanted it—how about insanity?”
Cole has spent years renovating his home, a former power plant. He credits the man that lived there before him with saving the large glass-paned doors and u-shaped alcoves where bundles of electric wires once exited the space. The original warning sign was faded and barely legible before Cole had an artist restore it several years ago. The collection of old tools speaks to Cole’s landscaping career.
The former PG&E steam-power plant was built on the site of a historic grist mill in 1902 to provide electricity for a Swiss-Italian utopian commune in nearby Asti. The social experiment was short lived, ending in the commune leader's untimely death. Arthur W. Foster III purchased the defunct power plant 50 years ago, dubbed it the Power House and converted it into his home.
The main room was once the heart of plant operations and was filled with large equipment. Today, it's a 40-by-40-foot living room. The focal point is the massive fireplace built by Foster (the previous long-time owner) and adorned by Cole with a PG&E plaque that he purchased at a junk shop. The wood is burned in a giant prune pot, which Cole discovered on the property. "The fireplace is the kind of debaucherous fixture that you would find in a baronial manor," says Cole.
Foster set the home’s reputation as and entertainment destination, and Cole carries on the tradition. “I don’t host salons, but I have many artists and designers here for parties,” he says. However, Cole abandoned another tradition: “After dinner, Arthur was known to have washed and counted the family silver before letting guests leave,” he says.