13. Con Edison IRT Power Plant, 12 Avenue and 59th Street
Located on 12th Avenue and 59th Street, the IRT Powerhouse is a stunning 1904 Beaux-Arts style building, designed by Stanford White. When it opened, it was the largest powerhouse in the world, spanning an entire city block from from 58th to 59th Street and Eleventh to Twelfth Avenue. The powerhouse provided electricity for the first subway line, which ran along the west side of Manhattan. It was sold in 1959 to Consolidated Edison and became a steam-generating plant since by then the subway system required less electricity.
Although the last remaining smokestacks were removed by Con Edison in 2009, the structure still commands a lofty presence thanks to its mammoth size, pivotal location and stunning architecture. It is for these reasons that developers have been eying the site over the years, seeking to re-adapt it as a space for public events, recreation, performances and more. The structure was given landmark status in 2017. The Historic Districts Council noted, “This monumental structure is a remarkable example of Beaux-Arts design applied to a utilitarian building; its architectural grandeur meant to convince the public to embrace the subway, a major new mode of transportation back in 1904. Designed as a showpiece, it now stands as a monument to progress and rapid transit.”