ASME-Landmark:East Wells (Onieda) Street Power Plant


Formerly known as the Oneida Street Power Plant for its location on then-Oneida Street (now Wells Street), the East Wells Street Power Plant was built in 1898 to 1900 by The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company, which, as the Wisconsin Energy Corporation, eventually became the major supplier of power to eastern Wisconsin.

Notably, the East Wells Power Plant served from 1918 to 1920 as the pilot plant in the United States for the development and use of finely pulverized coal firing in the boilers of steam-electric power plants. The results of the Oneida experiences were major changes in boiler design and lower costs of power generation.

Following the early years of central station electric development, experiments at Onieda Street resolved persisting inefficiencies at a time when coal was increasingly expensive and of poorer quality. Two marine engineers, John Anderson and Fred Dornbrook, devised a method for stoking a boiler with less effort by grinding coal into powder and blowing it into the furnace. They devised a water screen shield to reduce the formation of slag in the boiler, which contributed ultimately to the success of the modern pulverized fuel-fired furnace, and led to their success where others failed. The greater efficiency of pulverized coal led boilers across the U.S. to adopt this process.

The power plant was decommissioned and the building was renovated in 1987. As of 2016, the building houses the Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. See ASME website for more information