Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lost Building of the Week-- January 25th

Edison Building I

912 Sansom Street

You know you've got an old picture when you see those gigantic telegraph poles. There's got to be a surviving telegraph mega-pole still standing in this city somewhere.
                             After talking about the Edison Building II for this week's Old-Ass Building, I couldn't resist talking about the first one. This thing was a goddamn monster. Considering how long ago it was built, this literal Tower of Power must have seemed like a supertall skyscraper.
                             The primary reason that this Edison Building is different from the second one is that the first building wasn't just offices, it was a power plant too. In fact, it was mostly power plant:

                    In the 1880's, electric lighting had become all the rage, and as a result, power plants couldn't keep up. A semi-corrupt trust of electric companies had a stranglehold on the industry, but couldn't keep all their customers happy. The Edison Electric Light Company came along jumped on the opportunity to take them out.  In 1888, they quickly commissioned a HUMONGOUS power plant would have to be built just west of the city's Central Business District of the time.
                   Edison got the Super Mario Brothers of Badassery, the Wilson Brothers, to quickly design a massive structure that could house electrical generating needs for generations. They hit back with an Imperial Castle of Power-Generating Cock-slaps the likes of which no Philadelphian had ever seen.

It looks like Bowser's castle.
                      By the time it was hastily constructed, the plant that was supposed to fill needs for generations was already forced to run at 100% capacity. It was such a success, that only 4 years after being built, the Edison company was making the same amount of profits as the Electric Trust. Then came gasmonger and generalized badass Martin Maloney.
                        This rich motherfucker was tired of seeing multiple electric companies compete with each other, so he started his own that would rule them all. He created the Philadelphia Heat, Light, and Power Company in 1895 and immediately started to buy out competitors. Maloney's company merged with Edison Electric in 1896. A few massive mergers later, the Philadelphia Electric Company was formed in 1903.
                   PECO held their offices in the Edison Building, probably because it was near the Central Business District. At this point, the company was so huge that there wasn't enough space inside to keep them all. Offices spilled out into an annex building built nearby at 10th and Chestnut in 1907. After twenty years, even that building (which was pretty big) wasn't enough. PECO built Edison Building II in 1927 and stayed in both buildings until 1973.
                 The old Edison Plant stayed in operation until 1935, since it was one of the last places that generated direct current. It sat as a beautiful but useless hulk for seven years after that, being demolished in 1942. The Philadelphia Thermal Company put up the small power plant that still runs there today in the late 1950's.

The Edison Building next to its successor shortly before demolition.
                         After it was gone, everyone seemed to forget about it... finding details and pictures of this building is a huge pain in the ass. The next time you see that ugly-ass power plant on the 900 block of Sansom Street, pay homage to the Castle of Power that once stood there.

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