Edison Lights Streets as York becomes a City
Part 3 of York County History Center Buildings
This is Part 3 of an industrial chronicle of the buildings on the property recently purchased by the York County Heritage Trust, with their goal of renovating the buildings into a York County History Center. On January 11, 1887, York was incorporated as a City. The same year marked the replacement of gas lighting with Edison electric lights on the streets of York; necessitating an addition to the 2-year-old electric generating station along Gas Avenue. An article in the October 29, 1887, issue of The York Daily began as follows:
THE ELECTRIC LIGHT. Where The Street Lamps Are To Are To Be Placed. The Edison Company Actively Preparing to Light the City. The EDISON Electric Light Company in order to fulfill their promise to give the city a good all-night electric light by the first of December, are very busily engaged in making preparations for it. The building of the company is being enlarged by an 80 x 40-foot addition on the eastern side, for which the foundations are already laid.
Summary of Prior Parts Chronicling the York County History Center Buildings
Part 1—New History Center Generated Edison Electricity This introductory post provides a brief overview of all the buildings within what was the former Met-Ed Steam Heat Generating Plant on the northeast corner of West Philadelphia Street and North Pershing Avenue in York.
Part 2—York County History Center Buildings 1885 This post takes a closer look at the initial industrial building constructed on the site in 1885; a generating station for the Edison Electric Light Company of York.
Part 3—Chronicling the York County History Center Buildings:
The generating station of the Edison Electric Light Company of York went operational in the summer of 1885. It was the first power plant in York County and was capable of producing 75 Kw of electricity. In 1887, the Edison Company won the contract to replace gas lighting with Edison electric lights on the streets of York. This necessitated an eastward addition to the generating station to allow a capacity increase at the plant to 195 Kw.
Thomas Edison assisted cities in the establishment of local electric generating stations; many times prior to any contracts being in place for customers to purchase the electricity. Once a generation station was established, one goal became wrestling the contact for lighting city streets away from the gas company.
During 1887, the York City Council appointed a Committee on Light to investigate alternatives to the almost 300 gas lamps lighting city streets. The York Gas Company was the incumbent; having the soon-to-expire contract for supplying the gas.
The Committee on Light received street lighting proposals from The York Gas Company, The Pennsylvania Globe Gas Light Company of Philadelphia, The Columbia Electric Light and Power Company, The People’s Electric Light Company of York, and The Edison Electric Light Company of York. Ultimately York City Council decided the cost savings of electric lighting outweighed risks flaunted by the gas companies about the new-fangled electric lighting. The two electric light companies, based in York, were low bidders.
In 1886, The People’s Electric Light Company established a small electric generating operation, by utilizing excess boiler capacity in the engine room of Michael Schall’s Empire Car Works. Expansion of the People’s generating plant, located just north of the Edison plant, was contingent upon getting the contract to light city streets. However as with most cities where Edison plants were nearly always the first on the block, they had the price advantage and The Edison Electric Light Company received their initial three-year contract to light York City streets.
The location of the 80 x 40-foot addition on the eastern side of the initial Edison generating station is shown, as dotted lines, along Gas Avenue in the following 2008 Aerial Photo from the York County Tax Assessment web site. Click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
Philadelphia Street, Pershing Avenue, Gas Avenue and Park Avenue bound this aerial view. Basically the left half of the view contains the buildings recently purchased by the York County Heritage Trust, with their goal of renovating the buildings into a York County History Center. I’ve marked the locations of the first industrial buildings on this site; i.e. the 1885 one-story Edison power plant and the 1887 two-story addition to the power plant. In the right half, on the corner of Philadelphia Street and Park Avenue, is the Friends Meeting House, with Graveyard and Churchyard behind it.
The following photo is a present westward looking view from the intersection of Gas Avenue and Park Avenue. The trees at the left side are on the Friends Meeting House property.
I’ve used dotted lines to show where the two-story addition was build during October-December of 1887. This addition set the end elevation shape of the eventual two-story building that stretched all along Gas Avenue, from Pershing Avenue almost to Park Avenue. Today only the western half of this long two-story structure still stands; the eastern half was torn down for parking in the 1960s. This occurred following the 1959 end of 74-years of electric generation at this power station. For the next 18-years, the plant was solely used for supplying steam to heating customers; until the final shut-down of the Steam Heating Plant in 1977.
Related posts include:
- New History Center Generated Edison Electricity
- York County History Center Buildings 1885
- War of the Currents hits York
- Edison Electric Plant becomes subsidiary of York Railways
- 100th Birthday for the History Center Chimney
- Birth of District Steam Heating in York
- New Name is York County History Center
- Twin Smokestacks at Edison Plant
- Your History Starts Here
- History Center’s Smokestack Twin
- Edison Electric Plant Expansions in York
- 1931 Aerial Photo of Edison Electric Plant in York
- Michael Schall’s Empire Car Works; plus his Family
- Keystone Color Works, a Historic Structure that goes back to 1873 and the Empire Car Works