History Center’s Smokestack Twin
Part 11 of York County History Center Buildings
Sam Mills submitted a color zoom-lens photo of the ornamental brickwork believed to be topping the older History Center’s Smokestack twin. This is Part 11 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. These buildings originated as York’s Edison Electric Plant in 1885. If you are reading this on the Ydr.com site, click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post on the original YorkBlog site; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
Two soaring smokestacks were constructed at York’s Edison Electric Plant. The first tall smokestack was 188-feet high and was completed in December of 1910. In July of 1916, a smokestack of similar design was added; it was 6-feet shorter and a bit bigger in diameter. The 1910 smokestack was torn down circa the early 1960s, however the 1916 smokestack still stands; celebrating its 100th Birthday this month.
The enlarged section of a 1945 northeast view of twin smokestacks is from an article on the Edison Light & Power Company within a 1946 York Chamber of Commerce publication. One is standing at the intersection of West Philadelphia Street and North Pershing Avenue for this view; the 1910 stack is to the left and the 1916 (present) stack is to the right. Newspaper articles, at the time these smokestacks were constructed, noted, “At the top an ornamental design will be formed with black bricks.”
I’ve enlarged the 1945 black & white photo many times, to better see where the black ornamental bricks were located at the top of the smokestacks. I’ll continue with the color zoom-lens photo and details submitted by Sam Mills after the Summary of Links to 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—Edison Lights Streets as York becomes a City 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.
Part 4—War of the Currents hits York Nationally, the War of the Currents plays out with the company started by Thomas Edison, who favored direct current and was adamantly opposed to alternating current, being transformed, through the financing of J. P. Morgan, into the champion of alternating current. Locally in York something similar happened in 1894. The Westinghouse Electric Light, Heat and Power Co. of York, PA, located in the high bay part of the present Agricultural and Industrial Museum, was absorbed by the much better financed Edison Electric Light Company of York, PA; located in one of the buildings that will become the York County History Center.
Part 5—Edison Electric Plant becomes subsidiary of York Railways In 1892, the York Street Railway Company begin operation of their streetcars via electricity; i.e. replacing horse power. The Edison Electric Plant was their electric supplier from the inception. When the York Haven hydro-electric plant was placed into service during 1904, York Haven was contracted to carry most of the load of the Edison Electric Plant in York. The primary electric generating function of the Edison Plant was reduced to supplying power for many of the streetcar lines. As a result in 1907, the Edison Light & Power Company became a subsidiary of the newly named York Railway Company as a result of a merger.
Part 6—100th Birthday for the History Center Chimney At one time the buildings of the Edison Light & Power Company, recently purchased by the York County Heritage Trust, contained two giant chimneys. When it came time to build these chimneys, for the coal-fired power plant in these buildings, the premier chimney builder in the United States was selected; the Alphons Custodis Chimney Construction Company of New York. The surviving 1916 chimney still stands and celebrates its 100th birthday during July of 2016.
Part 7—Birth of District Steam Heating in York In 1898, Adam F. Geesey was instrumental in the birth of the York Steam Heating Company to make use of exhaust steam; that would have otherwise been wasted at the Edison Electric Light plant. After electric generation ceased in 1959, the York Steam Heating Plant operated until 1977. These buildings housed the first electric generating station in York County. The buildings generated electricity for 75-years and supplied steam, keeping Yorkers warm for 80-years.
Part 8—New Name is York County History Center A year ago, the York County Heritage Trust brochure “Pondering Change” contained a conceptual illustration of the History Center on page 14. The landmark chimney intuitively proclaimed History Center! A name change was one of the items on the agenda during a special meeting of the membership of the York County Heritage Trust on April 20, 2016. The members overwhelmingly voted in favor of an organizational name change to York County History Center.
Part 9—Twin Smokestacks at Edison Plant The greatest feedback from this series has been related to the smokestacks at the Edison Plant; i.e. a 188-feet high smokestack completed in December 1910 and a 182-feet high smokestack completed in July 1916. For at least 40-years both of these smokestacks stood together. Several readers inquired if photos exist of the twin smokestacks. Photos from 1930, 1942 and 1945 are included in this post, along with additional comments by my readers.
Part 10—Your History Starts Here Thursday evening, June 16, 2016, the York County History Center Brand Launch was moved from beside the former Edison Electric Plant into the Colonial Court House due to threatening weather. After a nice program and unveiling inside, the weather cooperated for a larger scale unveiling next to the former Edison Electric Plant. I liked the simple use of symbolized wood to create the “Y C H C” letters in the logo. The logo became even neater for me, after learning it was inspired by the exposed half-timber construction of the Golden Plough Tavern.
Part 11—Close-Up of History Center’s Smokestack Twin:
Sam Mills discovered posts in this series; particularly those concerning the twin smokestacks constructed by the Alphons Custodis Chimney Construction Company. He contacted me and ultimately submitted a neat photo and illustration of ornamental brickwork at the top of an Alphons Custodis chimney. First a little background taken directly from Sam’s e-mail:
I inherited pieces of hobby collections from my step-dad. One hobby involved photos of unique ornamental brickwork. I’m trying to expand the short descriptions he wrote on the photos. The description that should grab your interest, “Design used by Alphons Custodis per No. 62, believed to be in York.” With these search terms, I discovered posts at your Blog site.
Sam believes his step-dad went a step beyond the photographs, by also researching manufacturers catalogs. This is a brickwork design traced from an Alphons Custodis catalog. Sam believes this is the 62nd ornamental design in the collection of his step-dad and hence the “Alphons Custodis per No. 62” note on the photo.
Continuing with comments taken directly from Sam’s e-mail:
My step-dad was a traveling salesman, a manufacturers representative for several companies, never stayed in one place for very long, mostly in the mid-west. As near as I’ve been able to discover, the only time he was remotely near York, Pennsylvania, was for a few years in the 50s when he was based in Baltimore, Maryland. His later photos have nice location details and are dated, however his earliest photos, from the 40s and 50s, appear to be labeled from memory; i.e. much later in life, per the shaky handwriting. You indicated one of the Alphons Custodis smokestacks at the Edison Plant required steel bands to hold the top together after being hit by lightning. All the planets seem to be aligning, I believe one photo is possibly from what you call the 1910 smokestack.
Sam Mills submitted this color zoom-lens photo of ornamental brickwork likely topping the older History Center’s Smokestack twin. This is believed to be a 1950s photo, of the no longer standing, 1910 smokestack at York’s Edison Electric Plant.
Several readers thought the 1910 smokestack was hit badly several times by lightning and that steel bands were required to hold the top together in repairs after one of the severe strikes. It has been suggested, because of its bad condition, this stack was taken down very soon after the last electricity was generated at the plant; which was during May of 1959. I continue to research these comments about the 1910 smokestack. Do any of my readers know when, why or how the 1910 smokestack was torn down?
Related posts include:
- New History Center Generated Edison Electricity
- York County History Center Buildings 1885
- 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
- Edison Electric Plant Expansions in York
- 1931 Aerial Photo of Edison Electric Plant in York
- Dismantling the 1910 Steam Plant Smokestack