From the mid-1800s to the 1950s manufactured gas plants (MGP) produced fuel for local communities’ lighting, cooking, and heating needs. Cleaner than wood or oil as an energy source, manufactured gas dramatically improved people’s lives. Eventually, as demand for manufactured gas grew, up to 3,000 plants operated in the United States providing fuel for more than 9 million customers.
At a typical manufactured gas plant, coal or coke was heated in large ovens to produce gas. The gas was then cleaned of impurities and stored on site before it was delivered to the surrounding community through a series of pipes. By the 1940s gas manufacturing ceased to be a major energy source when the construction of natural gas pipelines allowed for the widespread, efficient use of natural gas. As the manufactured gas plants began to shut down, above-ground structures associated with gas plant operations were often demolished while the underground structures were left in place.