IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - November/December 2016 - 84

history

Thomas J. Blalock

a classic power plant
early electric power at Pratt Institute

I

IN APRIL OF 2000, I hAd the PLeAsure of visiting a truly beautiful artifact
of electric power history, and of meeting Conrad Milster, its long-time caretaker. this is the power plant of the
Pratt Institute, located in the Clinton
hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, New
York City. this unique installation still
exists today (along with Milster) and,
hopefully, both will continue so for a
very long time.
In 1977, the power plant was designated a National historic Mechanical
engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical engineers.
to honor his decades of loving preservation and maintenance of the facility, Milster himself should have been
included in the landmark designation.

Background
Pratt Institute was founded by Charles
Pratt, a Victorian era industrialist.
the land was purchased in 1885 and,
in May 1887, a charter was granted by
the New York State Legislature. Pratt's
beneficent intention was to create a
school for the "practical" training of
young men and women.
By the time the charter was granted,
construction had already begun on two
buildings: the Main Building, which
contained mainly classrooms, and an
adjacent Mechanical Arts Building.
A third structure, the trade School
Building, was soon begun and housed
facilities for instruction in such diverse

trades as bricklaying, plumbing, and
sign painting. All three buildings still
stand today.
Obviously, Pratt had high hopes for
this endeavor. however, being a practical

businessman, he had these buildings
designed as the standard mill construction of the time so that, if the school
should fail, he still would own valuable
commercial structures.

Treasures of New York is a popular television documentary series produced and
broadcast by WLIW21 and WNET13, two New York City-area public television
stations. Each program covers a building, establishment, or institution that is
part of the rich historical and cultural heritage of New York. Pratt Institute, a
leading college of art, design, and architecture, was the subject of a Treasures
of New York program that first aired in October 2012.
This issue's "History" article, authored by Thomas J. Blalock, a long-time
contributor to these pages, details the early Pratt Institute electric power plant.
Originally installed in the late 1880s, the power plant remains largely intact and
well maintained, but it no longer produces electricity for use on the college
campus. While the Treasures of New York program dealt with the educational
programs of the college over the years and the achievements of many of its
well-known graduates, the historically important power plant can also be considered to be a New York treasure.
Tom Blalock earned a B.S.E.E. degree from Lafayette College and an
M.E.E.E. degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His duties as a development engineer at the former General Electric High-Voltage Engineering Laboratory and later as a test engineer in the Transformer Test Department, both in
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, included a broad range of duties, including lightning
protection and high-voltage switching surge studies. Since retiring from General Electric, Tom has actively pursued his hobby of "industrial archaeology,"
with particular emphasis on the exploration, preservation, and careful documentation of historically significant and interesting electric power projects
and equipment.
We are honored to welcome Tom back as our guest history author for this
issue of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine.
-Carl Sulzberger
Associate Editor, History

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2016.2575479
Date of publication: 19 October 2016

84

ieee power & energy magazine

1540-7977/16©2016IEEE

november/december 2016



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