Did you know that Lower Manhattan was home to the first commercial power plant system in the United States?
On September 4, 1882, Thomas Alva Edison opened the first commercial power plant in the United States on Pearl Street. Although better known for his invention of the light bulb and phonograph, Edison devised a power plant that would set the standard for today's electric industry. Using one-third the fuel of its noncommercial predecessors, Edison's Pearl Street plant powered one square mile of Lower Manhattan, providing service to 59 customers for approximately 24 cents per kilowatt hour. Among the first locations to be powered by the plant's specially designed underground system was South Street -- making it the first commercial area in the country to use electric light. Increasing demand for electricity in the years that followed caused the Pearl Street plant to nearly double its output, and by 1885 it serviced 85 customers with more than 400 lamps.
By 1889, the Pearl Street Station had evolved from a nighttime generator to a 24-hour facility, and expanded to become Edison General Electric. Three years later, it merged with its leading competitor, Thompson-Houston, and became today's General Electric Company.
(Photograph on home page courtesy of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)