L Street Power Station HABS/HAER Photography

In early 2021 I was asked to conduct the HABS/HAER photography of the former L Street Power Station, in South Boston, MA. This is a massive, sprawling power generation complex located on the Reserved Channel that is a conglomeration of several generation facilities built over the course of nearly a century. The site is now under development by Hilco Redevelopment Partners, which is incorporating many the historic elements into an exciting multi-use facility. I was delighted to have the chance to work again with my colleagues at Ryan on this fascinating project.

The earliest component of the complex was built in 1898 by the Boston Electric Light Company to replace its first electric generating plant. The new building in 1898 consisted of a large generator room with a single horizontal unit and control facilities, and an adjoining tall brick coal bunker, the walls of which consist of series of convex curved sections to withstand the massive pressure of the coal. In 1902 the Edison Electric Illuminating Company purchased the Boston Electric Light Company. A year later, Edison Electric Illuminating Company, later known as Boston Edison Company, began construction on a vast new generating plant immediately adjacent to the original 1898 plant. The new building, completed in 1904, had three long narrow turbine halls placed end to end, and used innovative Curtis vertical steam generating units; one of these units remains in Turbine Hall 2. In 1939 the complex was expanded again with the construction of a large steam generating plant at the northeast corner of Summer Street and East 1st Street, and again in the 1960s with the construction of an even larger steam plant, now the most visible component of the entire facility. For additional information on this fantastic series of buildings, see The Story of the L Street Power Station 1898 2006.

This was perhaps the most physically demanding HABS/HAER photography project that I have undertaken. With so many large power plants joined together, moving my camera, film, and lighting gear was an issue. So too was the constantly below-freezing temperatures inside all of the buildings, and the seemingly endless dust. Despite these challenges, though, it was a terrific facility and the on-site staff of Hilco Redevelopment were constantly supportive. It was a remarkable historic resource to photograph, and an honor to give it a respectful farewell before it is redeveloped to serve future generations of Bostonians.