ASME-Landmark:Holly District Heating System


The Holly Manufacturing Company was founded by Birdsill Holly in 1859 in Lockport, N.Y., to produce sewing machines, cistern pumps, and rotary pumps. After designing Lockport's Fire Protection and Water System (ASME landmark #121), Holly began to address how best to heat buildings by steam—and after experimenting with steam heat in his own home, he formed the Holly Steam Combination Company in 1877.

Holly filed more than 150 patents related to central steam heating between 1876 and 1888—a number of patents second only to Thomas Edison. Rather than heating each building with a small individual boiler, Holly used a large central boiler plant that furnished steam over moderate pressure to a group of buildings in a surrounding district through a loop of heavily-insulated supply and return mains. He also developed various steam regulating and measuring devices to control and monitor the flow of steam in the system and to individual delivery points. Each customer could then be charged for the amount of steam consumed, determined by metering the water of condensation.

Holly's design for central steam heating systems spread to some three dozen cities throughout the U.S. in the 1880s, including Chicago, Brooklyn, New York, Buffalo, St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, and Montreal. He also installed his heating systems in factories, orphanages, asylums, and universities. In 1880, the Holly Steam Company was reorganized into the American District Steam Company, which Holly oversaw until his death in 1894. See ASME website for more information