Pearl Street Power Station

Edison’s Power Station

Pearl Street Station was the first central power plant in the United States. It was located at 255-257 Pearl Street in Manhattan on a site measuring 50 by 100 feet (15 by 30 m), just south of Fulton Street and fired by coal. It began with one direct current generator, and it started generating electricity on September 4, 1882, serving an initial load of 400 lamps for 82 customers.

By 1884, Pearl Street Station was serving 508 customers with 10,164 lamps. 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., 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.


Pearl Street Station not only holds the distinction of being the world’s first central power plant, but it was also the world’s first cogeneration plant. 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.

Thomas Alva Edison, gave us many inventions, including the light bulb, the phonograph and the motion picture camera, but perhaps he is best known for his work harnessing the power of electricity and bringing it into our homes. Edison set up the Edison Illuminating Company, the first investor owned electrical company in 1880 and at Pearl Street, New York City in 1882 he opened the first central electric power station, which gave power to his customers in Manhattan.

By 1887 there were 121 Edison power stations across America.


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