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A Washington inspector posted these pics on another site and is not getting answers. He says he has seen these a few times in houses built around 1900.

He doesn't say where the 2" pipes go, or whether this is water supply or gas.

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I wonder if the poster, who has disappeared, took the pictures in downtown Spokane, Washington? They apparently had central steam heat there until the 1980's.

Some other towns may have had the same, especially where there were abundant supplies of fuel. It seems to have been common for university complexes to have a central steam plant.

http://www.steamplantsquare.com/history.htm#begin

"The Origins of Central Steam Plant

In 1915, twenty-five years after the Seehorn-Lang building's completion, the Merchants Central Heating Company began to build the Central Steam Plant. In 1916, the steam plant was sold to Spokane, Heat, Light and Power Company. Almost immediately, however, the company suffered large operating losses and was placed in receivership within 2 years.

In April, 1919, Washington Water Power (WWP) purchased the steam plant, from receivership, to produce steam heat and electrical power. Soon thereafter WWP formed Spokane Central Heating Company. Spokane Central Heating Company operated it independently until 1939 when it became part of the WWP Spokane Division. WWP is now recognized as Avista Corp.

The steam heat produced from the plant served downtown Spokane until 1986. During its operation, fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas and saw dust were used to produce from 150,000 to 370,000 pounds of steam per hour. In 1986, it was determined that the plant was no longer economically viable, for much of the internal piping needed substantial repair or replacement."

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