Friday, August 22, 2008

Last Days for Electric Plant?

John T. Windrim's stately, early 20th Century cathedral of electricity, the Delaware Power Plant, has taken some hard blows. Graffiti mars the elegance of its stripped-down classicism, and a tangle of transformers and substations block views of its elegant Delaware Avenue facade. But until this week, the 1917 power station - one of four Windrim designed along the Delaware - had stood fairly intact. Then, on Thursday, Exelon (which bought PECO and its property a few years ago) began slicing off a small annex, leaving the power plant's north wall open to the elements.

Company spokesman Fred Maher insists the demolition is a limited operation - and not a prelude to total destruction of the generating station. But the unexpected deconstruction work has alarmed the building's champions, especially Hilary Regan. (Photo, right, by the Inquirer's Jon Wilson). They're increasingly worried about the future of the Delaware Power Plant and its sister station upriver, the Richmond Power Station, which was denied historic certification by the Street Administration.

Like many people who have devoted themselves over the last several years to creating a new vision for the Delaware waterfront, they see the two industrial relics as, well, generators of change. The grandeur of their architecture, coupled with their enormous high-ceiling turbine rooms, make them perfect candidates for a new museum of modern art. Obviously, they're keen to replicate the success of London's Tate Modern, which was carved out of old Bankside power plant on the Thames River with the help of Herzon & DeMeuron. But why not?

The Delaware Power Plant, which sits immediately north of Penn Treaty Park, is the more obvious candidate for re-purposing as an art museum, since it's closer to Center City. It's not hard to imagine it cleaned up, freed of its concertina of transformer wires, and installed with oversize sculpture. Sure beats a casino as a riverfront attraction.


Anonymous HIG said...

Interestingly, I think the Richmond Plant is the more elegant looking of the two.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Howard B. Haas said...

How short-sighted can Philadelphia be not to reuse these great landmarks of architecture? They did reused the power plant in Chester!

And, for sure, London's Tate Modern Museum has been a huge success.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous GregB said...

Most of the plant would have to go, but you could certainly preserve the main building as a museum or something else grand. The cost of demolishing the junk, ripping out the interior, renovating the facade, and replacing all of the windows would be massive though. We would also need to extend the land outward so that the running path could continue along the water from Penn Treaty northward.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Greg R said...

Why not relocate the casino into either of these two power plants. If we have to have casinos on the river/in the city, why not save and re-use these sites?

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome idea for turning it into a (sorely needed) MOMA-especially since it's next to Penn Treaty park.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why no mention of the apparently-successful conversion of the Windrim-architected Chester Power Station (at the foot of the Commodore Barry) into offices?

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Dave Scaglione said...

If you think the exterior is grand, you should see the interior:,com_rsgallery2/Itemid,26/catid,2/

9:23 AM  

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