In 1912, Ralph W. Street of Kansas City first proposed damming the Osage River to generate electricity. However, it wasn’t until 1924 that Street and Walter Cravens, also of Kansas City, arranged financing and formed the Missouri Hydro-Electric Power Company. The company began building roads, housing, an administration building, mess hall and other facilities needed to support construction of a dam near the tiny town of Bagnell. However, financial difficulties brought the project to a halt in 1926.
On July 27, 1929, Union Electric Company of St. Louis (now known as Ameren Missouri) purchased the facilities, and construction resumed on August 6. The New York Stock Exchange “crashed” two months later, bringing on the Great Depression, but work on the project continued. It became the only major construction project in the nation at the time, attracting thousands of workers from all over the country.
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