Chester Station: Building and Image Chester Electric Power Station - PECO Energy, Chester Pennsylvania
The plant that the Chester Construction Company erected for Delaware County Electric in the late 1910s represented the latest development in the forty-year evolution of urban central station design. By the time Windrim and Eglin conceived Chester Station, the building type had passed through three major phases in the United States. Among the earliest power plants designed for commercial service in big American cities were the stations of Edison-franchise companies in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. Because they generated direct current with a sharply limited transmission radius, these plants sat at the center the downtown districts they served. High real estate values dictated narrow building lots, and the plants took shape accordingly; sometimes identified as "vertical stations," they conformed roughly to an office-building model. Steam engines and dynamos occupied the lower floors, while boilers, coal bunkers and offices filled the spaces above. Exemplified in Philadelphia by the Sansom Street Edison Station, these compact buildings were the first to attain a broad consistency of architectural design in the U.S.
Alternating current determined the form and location of the next generation of plants. Coupled with Westinghouse's universal system, AC fostered tremendous consolidation in both the technological and commercial spheres of the electricity industry. Greater transmission range was the new current's primary advantage. Among other benefits, it allowed utilities to shift the locus of electricity production from the urban core. Plants like Philadelphia Electric's 1903 Schuylkill Station now appeared at the city's edge, near open land for coal storage and deep water for transportation and cooling, Schuylkill also embodied recent advances in central station design. The spacious site was conducive to a more horizontal layout on a broad footprint. Just as importantly, Windrim and Eglin conceived the building on a "sectional plan," whereby boiler and turbine rooms formed two adjacent, parallel modules. Inside, structure and equipment were arranged to permit an indefinite number of landward extensions, creating an orderly solution to the longstanding problem of central station growth. The building's exterior was also typical of its genre: a round-arched box with coal towers incongruously attached. Unlike the vertical stations, which tended toward the Romanesque, these new plants were generally "Renaissance," a label here signifying a kind of industrial palazzo.
By the mid-1910s, automation and high voltages exerted a greater influence on central station design. Previously relegated to the margins of the engine room, switching apparatus now received a separate "house" commensurate with its growing size, complexity and potential volatility. Coal and ash handling became totally automated, using motorized conveyors, hoists and other equipment that had been available in less refined form since the turn of the century. Mechanical stokers were, perhaps, the biggest advance in this category. Replacing dozens of firemen, the stoker permitted the use of larger, more powerful boilers and narrower firing aisles. The boilers themselves came to occupy a single level of the plant, their efficiency enhanced by the use of economizers. These reconfigurations gave the boiler house a greater proportion of the central station's plan. The engine room's proportions changed little, but its contents evolved rapidly. Steam engines were a thing of the past, and horizontal turbines on massive condensers were fast replacing the vertical units Samuel Insull had introduced at Chicago's Fiske Street Station a decade earlier. In overall layout, most stations maintained the principle of modular extendability. Now, however, they often extended parallel to the water instead of away from it. Increasing isolation of the plant's basic functions lead architects and engineers to articulate boiler, turbine and switch rooms as discrete blocks, and the City Beautiful movement made some form of classicism the mode of choice.
Chester Station was of this latter type. An automated, neo-classical giant, its design acknowledged the major engineering trends of the era. Yet, within the Philadelphia Electric system, many of Chester's advanced features had already surfaced at Schuylkill A-2. Erected between 1914 and 1915, A-2 superficially resembled its adjoining neighbor: orientation and facade were both determined by the older plant. The interior, however, told a different story. Gone were the confines of the two-part plan. In 1912, Philadelphia Electric had abandoned 6- kilovolt, two-phase current and begun implementing a 13.2-kilovolt, three-phase system. The new switchgear that accompanied this change was bulkier and more lethal than its predecessors, and the "switching galleries" employed at A-l would no longer suffice. Thus a "switch house" joined similarly defined spaces for turbines and boilers, forming the three-part plan typical of the era. Related necessities lead Eglin to centralize and protect the main electrical control panels in a separate operating room within the switch house.
Although Philadelphia Electric began employing turbines in the mid-1900s, large, horizontal turbines did not play an important role in the company's system until A-2's construction. A-2 featured two great General Electric turbogenerators, similar to those installed at Chester. The units sat atop Westinghouse surface condensers of the "2-pass, radial-flow type," supported, in turn, by deep and massive foundations (again, to appear at Chester). The purified water collected in the condensers eventually returned to the boilers for another cycle of steam production. While this system had been a convention of power plant design for several years, the technology for treating, storing and supplementing boiler feed water was growing in size and sophistication. Now surge tanks, boiler feed pumps and related equipment received their own, semi-confined area in A-2's turbine hall. Identified as the "south gallery," this space would reappear in PE plants until the 1930s. A-2 anticipated Chester in other respects as well. The Schuylkill plant's forebay and screening basin foreshadowed the screening house that would filter Chetser's water supply, and the two plants' boiler houses were similar. Both employed Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers with automatic stokers, arranged in blocks beneath two rows of steel-and-concrete coal bunkers.
Yet the differences between the two stations were also significant. For one thing, Eglin and Windrim could start afresh with Chester in a way they could not with A-2. Accordingly, they located Chester further out in the Delaware, simplifying coal delivery, ash removal and water circulation. Free reign on a new site further permitted Chester's designers to rationalize the orientation of the plant, placing the boiler end nearest the water. Here barges could haul coal and ash, while the drier, landward half of the property provided a safe seat for electrical apparatus. At the same time, a vehicular passageway and wall recesses afforded the switch house more isolation from the main block of the building. Differences in the coal and ash handling systems were apparent too. A-2 used an elaborate sequence of hoists, cable cars, elevator buckets and roller conveyors to bring coal to the bunkers. Chester's proximity to water eliminated the need for such complex gear. Two booms with clamshell buckets did most of the work, though A-2's ground-level cable railway reappeared above the newer station's bunkers. As for ash removal, A-2 used an unusual vacuum system. Original plans had called for "sidedumping tramway cars" hauled by electric locomotives, and this arrangement surfaced at Chester.
In 1916, other large power plants exhibited layouts and equipment comparable to Chester's. Perhaps the most striking similarities were to Public Service Electric Company of New Jersey's Essex Station, conceived the previous year. N. A. Carle and other company engineers adopted a "unit system" like Chester's, treating the boiler, turbine and switching areas as "separate structures." Certain mechanical details were the same too. Eglin probably knew of Carle's project, and the chances of Essex influencing Chester are good. This connection raises the question of regional patterns in power plant design. A thorough answer would require more research, but the case seems strong here. Although contemporary plants like Detroit's Connors Creek shared basic elements with Chester, the New Jersey-Pennsylvania link is more overt.
If Chester Station exemplified the latest practice in power plant design, it also benefitted from broader advances in industrial construction technology. Scmiylkill A-2 had consisted of a "steel skeleton with brick walls and reinforced concrete floor and roof slabs. All structural steel [was] fireproofed with either brick or concrete...." The description applied equally well to Chester. Although reinforced concrete had proven a great boon to industrial construction since the 1900s, it remained something of a novelty. Most engineers were comfortable specifying it in their contracts but continued to debate the extent of its applicability to power plant design. Thus Chester's creators shied from using a reinforced concrete frame. They did, however, employ the material more freely than at A-2, specifying it for all foundations and the lower portions of major walls.
As World War I progressed, steel became an increasingly scarce commodity. The decision to make Chester's economizers an "integral part" of the boilers may have reduced the building's height in that area - a steel conservation method recommended in industry journals. Yet, from a structural standpoint, this was still a cautious step, Philadelphia Electric soon realized that more strident measures were needed at Delaware Station. Following a hasty change in plans, engineers Stone & Webster managed to use reinforced concrete throughout that plant. Construction dragged on for lack of funding, but the design was successful; it strongly influenced the later Richmond Station.
While Chester was not Philadelphia Electric's flagship in structural innovation, it did serve as a venue for testing concrete slab construction. Pioneered in the previous decade, the technique could produce great molded panels which, in Chester's case, became the outer layer of the plant's rusticated basement; after setting a course of "Pre-Cast stone" in place, workers backed it with concrete. Internal use of the material was more extensive. It formed ducts, conduits, wire chases, switchgear housings and turbine foundations, making the building a direct extension of the machines it housed.
In a larger sense, both building and equipment were designed to function as a single machine. Although Chester Station did not employ the assembly line technology that revolutionized contemporary automobile manufacture, similar principles guided the plant's layout. Individual sections of the building contained multiple levels. Yet the overall arrangement of these sections was horizontal and linear. Entering from the south, coal provided energy that traveled north, first as heat, then as steam and finally as electricity. At Chester this process was almost entirely automated. The plant's most basic function, converting steam to electricity, was, of course, performed by machine. Historically labor-intensive activities such as oiling and stoking were also mechanized, bringing Chester into conformity with factory design trends of the day. Long of interest to power plant designers, the question of materials handling received special attention from industrial engineers after 1910. As a result, Chester and other large plants featured mechanical stokers, internal railways and less-novel traveling cranes - devices integral to the "rational factory" of the era.
Unlike heavy industries such as mines and steel mills, large power plants relied little on hard physical labor by the 1910s. While linemen still faced dangerous and arduous work outdoors, most plant employees tended semi-automated machines. Certain tasks, usually equated with low status, required more exertion than others. At Chester, for instance, men dumped coal cars over the bunkers by hand. But in the switch house and turbine hall, workers' relationship with equipment was essentially monitorial. Moreover, even the lower echelons of workers were often in contact with the plant's engineers and supervisors, limiting the perceived distance between labor and management. All of these circumstances tended to discourage union organization.
Nonetheless, utility executives took deliberate measures to accommodate plant employees. The remote chance of a strike raised the possibility of a break in service, and even under peaceful circumstances utilities wished to retain workers whose specialized training represented an investment. Thanks to Taylorism and the "welfare work" movement, pleasant conditions were also thought crucial to maximizing worker efficiency. This idea surfaced repeatedly in architecture and engineering journals, and may well have influenced Chester Station's design. Each section of the plant displayed concern for heating, lighting, and ventilation. Radiators warmed bathrooms in the switch house, skylights illuminated the turbine hall, and casement or louvered windows drew in fresh air. Some of these features catered more to mechanical than human necessity. Fire prevention underlay the extensive use of ventilator windows over the coal bunkers, where the main risk was to the structure itself. And while light aided equipment operation in the turbine hall, the boiler room remained relatively dark, perhaps facilitating coal bed inspection. In the switch house, doors closed automatically when the temperature rose, preventing the spread of fire but potentially impeding escape.
Other features represented more direct concessions to workers. As the Chester Times reported,
A trip to the plant reveals the fact that nothing has been left undone in the way of looking after the comfort and welfare of those who are employed on the operation. An inspection shows that the restaurant and office building (i.e., the switch house).. .is divided into several divisions. A locker room and wash room occupy one end of the building. Next is a portion which is known as the hospital section, being fitted up with all the necessary fixings necessary (sic) for the treatment of injuries, whether of serious or trivial nature.
Among these spaces, the restaurant drew most comment. Worker dining rooms were a common feature of contemporary factories, and Philadelphia Electric had already tried the idea at Schuylkill A-2. Yet Chester's example stood out. A long, vaulted room with Corinthian trim, it was lit by elaborate skylights and offered private groupings of tables and chairs. Food preparation occurred nearby in "huge electric kitchens," supposedly allowing "two hundred persons [to be] fed at one meal." If egalitarian motives influenced this design, others may also have been at work. The cafeteria and all major amenities were clustered on the [sixth] floor of the switch house, next to the management offices. Whether workers throughout the plant had equal access to these areas remains unclear.
In the spring of 1917, the Chester Times reported that the city's new power plant would be "one of the most striking examples of engineering architecture in the country." Although this prediction had the ring of local boosterism, it was essentially accurate. Not only was Chester Station enormous in scale, it was also among the grandest plants ever built in the United States. Surviving documents do not record any explicit discussion of the intentions underlying the building's architectural treatment. Most evidence on the subject comes from the local newspaper, industry journals, and various media through which Philadelphia Electric presented itself to the public.
When architects and engineers discussed factory design in the 1910s, they spoke primarily in financial terms. Engineers frequently disparaged architecture as an unnecessary "frill," while architects defended their role as crucial from the standpoints of labor and management. The common ground between these rhetorical poles was economic. Men of both professions could agree that pleasant work environments increased productivity - a rationale relating primarily to interiors. At the same time, the need to bolster consumer and investor confidence also forced designers to address external appearance. This second consideration was especially important for electric utilities. As a columnist for Power wrote in 1917, "The stability and success of any enterprise and the character and ability of the men behind it are judged consciously or unconsciously by the appearance of the physical property. This is true of power stations in a marked degree... " Whatever its use, such advice gave no indication of what style or form designers should adopt. These decisions depended on the specifics of time and place.
In 1916, the interlocking agendas of corporate public relations and the City Beautiful movement did much to determine Chester Station's appearance. Both strains of influence had earlier origins; those of the City Beautiful movement were more overtly architectural. Since the turn of the century, architects, planners and civic activists had joined in advocating the systematic "improvement" of American cities. Their ideal consisted of broad, axial boulevards, landscaped parks, and monumental public buildings, all arranged so the city might function as an orderly, attractive whole. In Philadelphia, John T. Windrim was a leading practitioner of City-Beautiful design.
Windrim's architectural career began in the office of his father, James, a successful designer of institutional and industrial buildings in Philadelphia. Similar commissions became a mainstay of the younger Windrim's practice. During the 1890s he worked on banks, police stations, and at least one project for a Philadelphia Electric predecessor company. Bell Telephone and Philadelphia Electric later became his regular patrons. When City-Beautiful efforts began transforming Philadelphia in the late 1900s, Windrim assumed an important role in the process. Benjamin Franklin Parkway was the movement's main contribution to the city. Along this great boulevard, the architect conceived Bell Telephone's neo-Georgian office building (1912-16) and the sprawling headquarters of the Franklin Institute (1908-34). Though far removed from the parkway, Chester Station was related to Windrim's work there.
From an early date, Windrim coined an architectural vocabulary that appealed to his institutional clients. His designs bespoke solidity and tradition, and reflected one of two schools of thought prevalent among Philadelphia classicists. Windrim's camp understood neoclassicism essentially as a style, applied to buildings like those of the 1893 World's Fair. As David Brownlee has noted, "This conception of the building as seen from the outside and from afar necessarily reduced the attention paid to planning and the rational expression of a building's structural system...." Other architects, including Paul Cret, held that classicism was less an aesthetic than a method, based on the teachings of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris; discrepancies between a building's external appearance and internal configuration violated Ecole principles. Both factions believed classicism could meet the unprecedented architectural requirements posed by new technology. Their interpretations of this credo differed widely.
Chester Station presented Windrim with a complex design problem. Many aspects of the building's program were fixed by mechanical necessity, and while some areas could be treated sparely, others would either have to follow classical convention or appear to do so. Only with effort could the forms of the parkway be fitted to the mechanisms of electricity production. One of the greatest challenges stemmed from the need to bring trains into Turbine Hall. Windrim responded by extending the room's downriver half, but this solution threw off the building's symmetry. As a result, the center line of the switch house and turbine hall falls in a different location than that of the boiler house. If this compromise offended Cret's contingent, other shifts would have been just as shocking. The steel frame supporting the boilers does not align with the boiler house's exterior columns, so beams between facade and core veer off at different angles. Elsewhere, steel piers are off-center within their concrete encasements. Many of these adjustments are only visible in plan, and represent ingenuity as much as unorthodoxy. Moreover, the fit between technology and tradition was sometimes seamless. Such was the case with Turbine Hall's interior cornices, which double as beds for the traveling crane's tracks. The only features that jarred overtly with the plant's architecture were booms and smokestacks, standard sticking points of central station design.
Corporate beautification was one of Windrim's strengths. His Bell Telephone offices helped anchor the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. And he was equally prepared to link Philadelphia Electric with a more modest improvement campaign in Chester. Like many American cities, Chester had assumed a gritty, industrial character by the early twentieth century; as the local paper readily confessed, "Chester has not had the reputation of being a 'City Beautiful.'" Hopes of shedding this stigma ran high in the mid-1910s. John H. Mirkil, the city's Superintendent of Parks and Improvements, performed his duties with zeal, and private sponsors supplemented his efforts. The focus of their attention was Chester's aging commercial and administrative core. By 1916 the city had begun planning a Civic Center at Fifth and Market Streets (now Avenue of the States), surrounding the 200-year-old courthouse that had long served as City Hall. A prim, neo-Georgian Municipal Building soon emerged as the scheme's centerpiece. The work of New York architect Clarence W. Brazer, it housed the city's police department and growing bureaucracy in separate quarters. A small park connected this complex to the historic courthouse (for which Brazer furnished restoration plans) while "the city's first skyscraper," the Crozer Building, loomed over the ensemble. Several blocks to the north, Frazer & Roberts' Deshong Memorial Art Gallery also contributed to the transformation.
Although Chester Station was physically remote from these activities, it joined them by association. On one hand, Windrim's design was stylistically compatible with downtown construction. On the other hand, the new plant would provide power for the "great white way" that Philadelphia Electric's subsidiary, Beacon Light, had promised Chester. Brilliantly lit thoroughfares or "white ways" (their term, not ours) were contemporary symbols of urban progress. Hoping to bring the phenomenon to Chester, John Mirkil worked with Beacon manager Albert Granger on plans to install "powerful arc lights" on "ornamental iron poles" along Third Street, Market Street, and Edgmont Avenue. Much of this "city beautiful light plan" reached completion in 1917, illuminating the business district and the Civic Center site. The handsome new lampposts held much brighter lamps than their wooden predecessors. They also carried streetcar and telephone cables, reducing the number of poles needed on streets the City wished to beautify. Windrim's architecture was an implicit part of this program.
While neoclassicism related Chester Station to the City Beautiful movement, architectural style was only one of the movement's concerns. At least as important was the larger goal of urban reform. City-Beautiful advocates wished to make urban America cleaner, safer, and more orderly. They shared these priorities with a wide circle of progressive-era reformers that included city planners, politicians, civil engineers and others whose professions dealt indirectly with aesthetics. Among this group was Philadelphia's Director of Public Works, Morris Llewllyn Cooke. Cooke's appreciation of scientific management made him a champion of candor and efficiency in the operation of cities; open bidding and honest contracting were as central to his program as clean streets and "artistic" bridges. Like many City Beautiful proponents, he came to believe that utilities were taking advantage of the municipalities they served. It was this conviction that pitted him against Philadelphia Electric.
Cooke's suit centered on allegations of stock watering. Yet, as the case wore on and gained national attention, it became a de facto attack on Philadelphia Electric's system. Engineer George Morse testified that the company's power plants were "curiosities" - not simply "inadequate," but "actually dangerous to operate." Erected months after the case closed, Chester Station was, in a sense, a response to these charges. The sheer cost of the building attested to its sponsor's financial stability, while the structure's style, scale, and massive construction all bespoke permanence. Just as importantly, Chester Station was modern; far from resembling Morse's description, it was a clean and monumental showcase for the latest power- generating technology. Programmatically, the 1916 plant drew on precedent at Schuylkill A-2. Aesthetically, it was a clear break from anything Philadelphia Electric had ever built.
Because Cooke's case put an engineering slant on City-Beautiful reform, it placed William Eglin and John Windrim in an ideal position to refute the charges through design. Eglin was an accomplished engineer. His career in electric power started in 1889 when he began working for the Edison Electric Light Company of Philadelphia. Moving quickly through that venture's ranks, he became Philadelphia Electric's Chief Engineer after the 1899 merger, and took primary responsibility for "modernizing and unifying" PE's system. He was, according to Nicholas Wainwright, "one of the foremost and most progressive engineers in the country." Partly through collaborating with Eglin, Windrim earned a reputation as an eminent practitioner of "engineering architecture." The two men's work on Schuylkill A-l and A-2 formed the hub of Philadelphia Electric's system, and Windrim's Bell Telephone projects underscored his ability to integrate architecture and technology.
Windrim and Eglin were qualified professionals, and Philadelphia Electric gladly credited them with conceiving Chester Station. The question of attribution is, of course, somewhat more complex. While Windrim and Eglin contributed materially to Chester's design, the project's vast scale demanded the time and skills of many others. Both men had large numbers of assistants at their disposal. When this consortium of engineers, architects and draftsmen completed the initial phases of design, a "corps of draftsmen," temporarily stationed in the switch house, continued to refine the plans. This second group apparently suffered from attrition after the U. S. entered World War I. As members of the corps departed, their positions were filled by the Drafting Room Girls, a group of young women who worked in the mechanical drawing room of Philadelphia Electric's downtown office building. The "girls" saw the plant infrequently, but some obviously looked on their contribution with pride. After receiving a tour of the site as a "reward," Catherine Day joined other draftswomen in sending accounts of the trip to the company's in-house journal. She wrote, "The ash handling system proved very interesting to me, as I had done a great deal of the tracing for that particular part...We enjoyed the afternoon very much, and expressed the hope that we might see this fine station again and see how these different parts of machinery would look when in working order."
Because the design of Chester Station involved so many different hands, Eglin and Windrim's role in the process quickly became managerial. This was another responsibility for which the two men were prepared. Both were used to working with a staff, and both could be counted on to represent the interests of Philadelphia Electric. The latter guarantee stemmed from the designers' positions within the corporation's upper ranks: Windrim had been a Director since 1912, and Eglin's tenure as Vice-President began the same year. Under this arrangement, both men had an added stake in the success of their projects. They were the ideal stewards of corporate public image.
Eglin's role in shaping public perception extended beyond his connection to Philadelphia Electric. For years he had been actively involved in the National Electric Light Association (NELA), an organized mouthpiece for American electric utility interests. He had served as the NELA's President from 1908 to 1909 and been instrumental in developing the organization's state and company branches; Philadelphia Electric's own "company section" owed its genesis to Eglin. Prior to 1911, the NELA tacitly functioned as a General Electric holding company. After this fact triggered federal anti-trust litigation, the association underwent some superficial adjustments but continued to promote ingrown relationships among power companies and electrical equipment manufacturers. It also became an aggressive advocate of private utility ownership at a time when many reformers were calling that arrangement into question.
The ownership controversy was one of the great debates of the early twentieth century. It flared up periodically in various parts of the country and had, in fact, embroiled Philadelphia Electric in 1905. Earlier still, Chicago utility magnate Samuel Insull began trying to stave off conflict by calling for state utility regulation. The NELA initially failed to grasp his logic, but soon "realized that state regulation would both facilitate expansion and counter the rising tide of municipal ownership." In the 1910s, many states, including Pennsylvania, formed agencies that governed the operation of utilities. Men like Eglin and Insull urged their fellow NELA members to cooperate with government officials and also, in a sense, to emulate them. It was not enough, Insull argued, for utility executives to insist on the public benefit of their service. Instead, "We, central station managers, ought to look upon ourselves as semi-public officials and so conduct our affairs with the community as to give us the advantage of a reputation for absolutely fair and impartial dealing." In a similar speech before the NELA, Arthur S. Huey proclaimed, "The ideal utility manager should be an integral part of the life of the city, ...foremost among the planners for municipal advancement."
Morris Cooke did not wish to place Philadelphia Electric in public hands. While many reformers in his circle favored municipal ownership, he was actually somewhat leery of it. Nonetheless, his lawsuit challenged Philadelphia Electric's worthiness to serve as the region's electricity supplier, and it behooved the corporation to follow the NELA's public relations advice. Toward that end, the utility's Chester subsidiary could serve as a model. General Manager Albert Granger conformed seamlessly to the ideal outlined by Insull and Huey. At the same time, the plant under Granger's supervision represented an attempt to reinforce his "semi-public" role through architecture. Eglin and Windrm's building towered over the city's waterfront. "If one could see over the coal piles on the landward side, one might mistake the plant for an enormous public library!"
Similar objectives guided the treatment of Chester Station's interior. NELA members urged each other to "arrange and keep our plants [so] that visitors coming to the city, and also our consumers and people living in the city, can visit it, and would do so." Such tours seem to have occurred frequently at Chester during the plant's early years; the first may have been led by Eglin himself, who presided over the opening-day ceremonies. Turbine Hall was the one space all visitors would have seen. An immense, formal room, it possessed the public character of contemporary train stations. Here one might observe the latest generating technology and the safest, most pleasant working conditions. All validated private stewardship of utilities, especially as practiced by Philadelphia Electric. Another important showplace was the electric kitchen and restaurant. Filled with modern appliances, the area not only evinced concern for workers but also showed visitors how electricity might improve their own lives.
Philadelphia Electric was committed to using architecture in the service of public relations. Yet this kind of publicity had distinct limitations. Power plants housed dangerous equipment, and their immediate surroundings posed additional risks. Despite the emphasis placed on tours, Chester Station was intentionally hard to reach. Utility employees had regular access to the site, but fences and a guard house guaranteed that others stayed away.
Obliged to keep the public at bay, Philadelphia Electric found other venues through which to communicate its architectural message. Over time, Chester and its sister stations appeared in company-sponsored drawings, photographs and parade floats. Accompanying text - in the form of pamphlets, articles, banners, and electric signs on the plants themselves - stressed the tightly "woven" relationship between company and community. The same media borrowed icons from Philadelphia's public past to drive home the point. City Hall, Independence Hall and Benjamin Franklin stood side by side with monumental power plants, unmistakably conflating public and private interest. In this way, Chester Station proved useful to Philadelphia Electric many times over. The company hired Windrim and Eglin, and received a factory, a showcase, and a billboard in return.