Construction of the 74th Street Power Station

For the past two weeks I’ve had the pleasure of digitizing our photographs of the construction of the 74th Street Power Station located on the East River between 74th and 75th Streets. Most power plants in New York City at the turn of the 20th century were located on either the Hudson or the East River because they used the river water as a coolant.

Photographer unknown. 74th St. Power Station Looking North. June 17, 1902. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.308A

This power station, designed by George H. Pegram, is still in use today and I was blown away by its beauty.  The Manhattan Elevated Railway Company broke ground in 1899 on the 200 x 500 foot power house and it was fully operational by 1902. It began its life as a coal-powered plant designed to supply electricity to the elevated trains of New York City, which were in the process of being converted from coal to electricity. The city at the time was badly in need of relief from the soot and pollution from the coal-powered steam engines. By 1904 “the power for the operation of all trains on the Manhattan Railway Division [was] generated at one power station located near the centre of the system on the East River, between 74th and 75th Streets.”  The New York Electrical Handbook, by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers

Photographer unknown. Trench Looking East. May 31st 1900. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.170E

Photographer Unknown. 74th St. Power Station Looking East. October 11th 1900. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.211A

The main towers were the first part of the building to be completed, in October, 1900.

Photographer unknown. 74 St. Power Station from East River. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.228A

You can see here that from February to June 1901 the engine room was almost fully completed.

Photographer unknown. 74th St Power Station Looking East. February 21, 1901. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.243A

Photographer unknown. 74th St Power Station Looking East. June 20, 1901. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.267B

According to the IEEE Global History website regarding the history of railway power stations of New York City: “Originally, the power house was equipped with eight huge Allis-Corliss reciprocating steam engines, each rated at 10,000 horsepower maximum. Each engine drove directly a Westinghouse three-phase, 11,000 volt, 25-cycle alternator rated for 7500 kilowatts.” At the time these eight Westinghouse alternators were the largest ever built!

Photographer unknown. 74th St Power Station Looking West. February 20.1902. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.315B

Here is the completed engine room with those impressive steam engines cranking away.

Photographer unknown. 74th St Power Station Engine Room at Night. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.321C

I especially loved the photographs of the men who built this amazing example of engineering and construction.

Photographer unknown. 74th St Power Station Looking West. August 1, 1901. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.275D

Photographer unknown. 74th St Power Station Looking West. March 20, 1902. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.297A

Photographer unknown. 74th St Power Station Looking North. February 6, 1902. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.286C

Photographer unknown. 74th St Power Station Looking West. August 22, 1901. Museum of the City of New York Photography Collection. F2012.53.279B

Though the 74th Street Power Station is still in use today, it is no longer coal powered. In 1959 the plant was taken over by the Consolidated Edison Company and it continued to supply coal power to substations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. In 1999 new boilers and gas turbine generators replaced steam ones and the station continues to contribute to the city’s electric power grid.  For more information about this and all power stations in New York, you can read the IEEE Global History Network’s page on the Railway Power Stations of New York City.

2 responses to “Construction of the 74th Street Power Station

  1. What great photographs from an unkown photographer!
    Another terrific blog.

  2. Pingback: Aftermath of a Fire in the Lower East Side | mcnyblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s