Twin Smokestacks at Edison Plant
Part 9 of York County History Center Buildings
This is Part 9 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.
The greatest feedback from this series has been related to the giant chimney(s), i.e. the smokestack(s), at the Edison Plant. In the post 100th Birthday for the History Center Chimney I wrote about the history of the twin smokestacks; 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.
The, circa 1930, aerial photo is an eastward looking view along West Philadelphia Street in York, PA. I’ve annotated where West Philadelphia Street is located in the photo. Above that label, the twin, light color brick, smokestacks stand out; the 1910 stack is to the left and the 1916 (present) stack is to the right. The tall building to the right side of the photo, in the foreground, is the YMCA on the southwest corner of West Philadelphia and North Newberry Streets. The large structure to the left side of the photo is a 2-million cubic-feet gas holding tank that was located on the northeast corner of West Gas Avenue and North Grant Street. I’ll continue with additional photos and reader comments 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 collections of the York County History Center contain this Xerox copy of a photo, showing the twin smokestacks at the Edison Plant; the 1910 stack is to the right and the 1916 (present) stack is to the left. George W. Stahle, the longtime Superintendent at the plant, wrote the following caption for this photo.
July, 1942—View of smokestacks from Philadelphia Street [standing on south side of street, across from the Friends Meeting House], showing removal of scaffolding and ladders from 1916 stack after repairs by the builders—Alphons Custodis Company.
The newspaper articles, describing the smokestacks when they were built, noted ornamental design would be formed with black bricks at the top of the stacks. I remember these designs, as did several of my readers. The designs can be faintly seen in the 1942 photo. These designs appear to be painted over in the following 2016 photo of the top of the 1916 stack. Does anybody know when or why this was done?
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. I continue to research these comments about the 1910 smokestack.
The Edison Plant ceased generating electricity during May of 1959; thereafter only a fraction of the plant was needed to supply steam to the district steam heating system. Historic aerial photos bracket when the 1910 smokestack was torn down; between September 1957 and May 1964. Does anybody know when, why or how the 1910 smokestack was torn down?
This 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.
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
- Your History Starts Here
- History Center’s Smokestack Twin
- Edison Electric Plant Expansions in York
- 1931 Aerial Photo of Edison Electric Plant in York