Last DC power in NYC to shut down

Con Edison is shutting down the last direct current power in Manhattan, currently serving 10 East 40th Street, near midtown. Thomas Edison was a DC maniac and a fanatical opponent of Tesla's alternating current (he used to shock livestock to death with AC power, just to prove how bad it was — he eventually worked his way up to an elephant!).

Despite the clear advantage of alternating current – it can be transmitted long distances far more economically than direct current – direct current has taken decades to faze out of Manhattan because the early backbone of New York's electricity grid was built by Mr. Edison's company, which had a running head start in the first decade before Mr. Tesla and Mr. Westinghouse demonstrated the potential of alternating current with the Niagara Falls power project. (Among the customers of Thomas Edison's Pearl Street power plant on that first day was The New York Times, which observed that to turn on its lights in the building, "no matches were needed.")

But direct current clearly became uneconomical, as the short distances that it could be transmitted would have required a power station every mile or less, according to Joe Cunningham, an engineering historian. Thus alternating current in New York began in the outskirts – Queens, Bronx, Upper Manhattan and the suburbs.


(via Kottke)

(Image credit: IMG_5766 (Edison from the National Portrait Gallery), a CC-BY photo from dbking's Flickr stream)