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Striking Photos of Philadelphia’s Abandoned Power Stations

The monolithic stations of the Philadelphia Electric Company.

The new book Palazzos of Power: Central Stations of the Philadelphia Electric Company, 1900-1930 explores the history and present state of the vast, imposing power stations built by the Philadelphia Electric Company in the first few decades of the 20th century. This was a time of growth for the company: the number of customers increased nearly 25-fold between 1902 and 1923. 

The power stations—designed by architect John T. Windrim and engineer William C. L. Eglin—are massive in scale and grand in stature. The Turbine Hall of the Chester Power Station contains doric columns; at Richmond, vast arched ceilings soar above a cavernous space.

Today, these behemoths lie empty, waiting for a second life. The Delaware Station Power Plant, in operation since 2004, has since been purchased a developer who plans to turn it into a hotel and events complex. Richmond Station closed in 1984 and has stayed empty, save for appearances in the occasional movie.

Written by Aaron Wunsch with striking, large format photographs by Joseph Elliott, Palazzos of Power examines the history and design of these now-abandoned monoliths. Atlas Obscura has a selection of images from the book.

Delaware Station, Maintenance, Shop between Boiler Houses with coal conveyors above.
Delaware Station, Maintenance, Shop between Boiler Houses with coal conveyors above.
Delaware Station, Turbine Hall.
Delaware Station, Turbine Hall.
Delaware Station, view looking southwest across roof of the Boiler Houses.
Delaware Station, view looking southwest across roof of the Boiler Houses.
Richmond Station, Turbine Hall, partially disassembled condenser.
Richmond Station, Turbine Hall, partially disassembled condenser.
Richmond Station, Turbine Hall, turbogenerator unit.
Richmond Station, Turbine Hall, turbogenerator unit.
Chester Station, northwest elevation of Switch House.
Chester Station, northwest elevation of Switch House.
Chester Station, Turbine Hall, view from main entrance.
Chester Station, Turbine Hall, view from main entrance.
Lamokin Substation, operating console.
Lamokin Substation, operating console.
Somerset Substation, rheostats.
Somerset Substation, rheostats.
Somerset Substation, breaker cabinets and rotary converters.
Somerset Substation, breaker cabinets and rotary converters.
The cover of <em>Palazzos of Power: Central Stations of the Philadelphia Electric Company 1900-1930</em>.
The cover of Palazzos of Power: Central Stations of the Philadelphia Electric Company 1900-1930. Courtesy Princeton Architectural Press