ASME-Landmark:Pratt Institute Power Plant


Victorian industrialist Charles Pratt purchased the Brooklyn property that would later house the Pratt Institute in 1885. The first two buildings for his school—which he had designed on the standard mill construction of the period so that, should the school fail financially, he would still have a usable commercial property—were planned to have steam heat, both gas and electric lighting, and an elevator. But while the first registration for classes was held on October 3, 1887, neither boilers nor generators were yet in operation. The boilers were lit for the first time on November 22, and the generating plant finally went "on steam" on January 4, 1888, finally supplying classrooms with reliable electric light.

A rare survivor of the period, the Pratt facility is the oldest generating plant of its kind in the Northeast and embodies the typical features of engines in a row, open-front marble switchboard, and an observation balcony at street level. An early investment in steam generating equipment, the plant maintains three operable reciprocating steam generators built in 1900 and a Curtis turbine (ca. 1909) by General Electric.

The same steam engines are still responsible for providing heat and hot water to Pratt's campus. Because replacement parts have long since gone out of production, Pratt's head engineer fabricates them from scratch—and takes care of the several dozen "Pratt Cats" who call the engine room home. See ASME website for more information