Pearl Street Station

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A sketch of the Pearl Street Station

Pearl Street Station was the first commercial central power plant in the US. It was located at 255-257 Pearl Street in Manhattan on a site measuring 50 by 100 feet (15 by 30 m),[1] just south of Fulton Street and fired by coal. It began with six dynamos, and it started generating electricity on September 4, 1882, serving an initial load of 400 lamps at 82 customers.[2] By 1884, Pearl Street Station was serving 508 customers with 10,164 lamps.[1] The station was built by the Edison Illuminating Company, which was headed by Thomas Edison. The station was originally powered by custom-made Porter-Allen high-speed steam engines designed to provide 175 horsepower at 700 rpm,[3] but these proved to be unreliable with their sensitive governors. They were removed and replaced with new engines from Armington & Sims that proved to be much more suitable for Edison's dynamos.[4]

Pearl Street Station was also the world's first cogeneration plant.[5] While the steam engines provided grid electricity, Edison made use of the thermal byproduct by distributing steam to local manufacturers, and warming nearby buildings on the same Manhattan block.

The station burned down in 1890, destroying all but one dynamo that is now kept in the Greenfield Village Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.[6]

Scale models[edit]

In 1929 the Edison Company constructed three scale working models of the station. When a button was pushed, a motor turned the engines, generators, and other equipment in the model. A set of lamps connected to labelled buttons identified the various areas of the building. Cut-outs in the side of the model building allowed examination of the boilers on the first level, reciprocating steam engines and dynamos on the reinforced second level, and the control and test gear on the third and fourth levels. The models were constructed to a scale of one-half inch to the foot and were 62 inches long, 34 inches high and 13 inches wide. The models still exist and are on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History in Washington, at the Consolidated Edison Learning Center in Long Island City, New York and at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Up to 31 people worked on constructing the models which took about 6 months to complete.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Edison" by Matthew Josephson. McGraw Hill, New York, 1959, pg. 255. OCLC 485621, ISBN 0-07-033046-8
  2. ^ Skruen uden ende, page 253, third edition
  3. ^ Electrical world, Volume 80, McGraw-Hill, 1922, p.529 (read online)
  4. ^ Electrical world, Volume 80, McGraw-Hill, 1922
  5. ^ Industrial Motor Power Corp, What is Cogeneration?
  6. ^ 125 Years On: Pearl Street - Birthplace of the Electric Age (Interactive Presentation), Consolidated Edison Company of New York. Last accessed: 3 May 2009.
  7. ^ Carl Sulzberger, Pearl Street in Miniature: models of the electric generating station, IEEE Power and Energy', Volume 11 No. 2 March/April 2013, pp 76-81

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°42′28″N 74°00′17″W / 40.70778°N 74.00472°W / 40.70778; -74.00472