New History Center Generated Edison Electricity
As early as 1883, Adam F. Geesey spearheaded the push for electric lights in York. The result was an April 13, 1885 charter for The Edison Electric Light Company of York. Philetus F. Wilt sold the Company a portion of his coal yard, along the Northern Central Railway. Upon this site, an electric generating station was built along Gas Alley; just off of Water Street, which is now named Pershing Avenue.
The photo is an eastward looking view of the former steam plant along Pershing Avenue in York, PA. This property was recently purchased by the York County Heritage Trust, with the goal of renovating the buildings for a new history center. Within the core of the building at the left side of the photo, the first electric generating station in York County was constructed. 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.
The plant was operational by the summer of 1885; having a generating capacity of 75 Kw. The plant utilized Edison Bi-Polar Generators, Edison Transfer Switches and Edison Meters; in generating Edison Direct Current electricity.
The plant utilized coal fired boilers, producing steam, which powered steam engines that spun the Edison Bi-Polar Generators to produce the electricity. As electricity demand rose, in 1887, an eastward addition to the generating station was constructed to increase the capacity of the plant to 195 Kw.
In 1892, the York Railways Company signed an agreement with the Edison Electric Light Company to provide direct current for the operation of electric street trolley cars in York. This required a further expansion of the generating station. When completed, the plant stretched the whole way along Gas Alley between the Friends Meeting House Cemetery and Water Street (Pershing Avenue). The York Railways Company began electric streetcar operation on August 18, 1892.
In 1898, Adam F. Geesey was instrumental in founding the York Steam Heating Company to make use of exhaust steam; that would have otherwise been wasted at the Edison Electric plant. The patented Holly system of district steam distribution had already proven itself in other cities on the east coast. Birdsill Holly’s company, the American District Steam Company of Lockport, NY, was contracted to install the system in York, using local labor. The October 29, 1898, issue of The Gazette reported:
The system of steam heat of the York [Steam Heating] company has been in successful operation for just three weeks and it has given such pronounced satisfaction to everybody using it that it will be but a short period before the system is extended over a much larger territory than it is at present. New connections are being made daily and they include some of the largest buildings in the city, which is proof that the heat is a cheap investment.
After the York Haven hydro-electric plant was placed in service during 1904, they were contracted to carry most of the load of the Edison Electric plant in York. The primary functions of the Edison Light & Power Company became supplying steam to the district steam heating system and serving as auxiliary power supplier for the streetcars of the York Railways Company. In 1907, Edison Light & Power Company merged with, and became a subsidiary of York Railways Company.
By 1911, the local electric grid could not keep up with the ever-increasing demand for electricity, even with the York Haven hydro-electric station operating at full capacity. The coal-fired Edison Electric plant, in York, was brought back on-line and expanded several times. These expansions represent the taller building, with tall chimney, seen at the right side of the photo at the beginning of this post and at the left side of the following photo. The power plant expansions occurred in 1911, 1914 and 1916. In 1917, the Warehouse building was constructed on the northeast corner of East Philadelphia Street and North Pershing Avenue.
The Warehouse is also part of the property recently purchased by the York County Heritage Trust, with the goal of renovating the buildings for a new history center. The Warehouse is shown in the following photo, with Philadelphia Street heading off to the right and Pershing Avenue heading off to the left.
Related posts include:
- York County History Center Buildings 1885
- Dallastown, Dallas and Geesey
- Edison Lights Streets as York becomes a City
- 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