The Willow Street Steam Generation Plant was built in 1927 by the Philadelphia Electric Company. This large, hulking building was part of Center City’s steam system, which still operates. The plant burned coal, which was brought in via rail cars that ran along the Reading Railroad tracks that used to be on Willow Street. In 1969, all six of the original turbines were put into standby status, operated only as needed for periods of increased demand and load balancing, and in 1972, the circa 1953 units were converted to run on fuel oil. Eventually, the original turbines were retired in 1984.
Abandoned for about 30 years, this building at 9th and Willow (by Callowhill) is the proverbial eyesore, yet there is not much that anyone can do about it. Private developers have balked at doing some kind of adaptive reuse – the place is chock-full of asbestos – and city officials remain stymied. The structure has been is the news now and then, though not lately. It represents Philadelphia at its industrial peak, yet today is in a forsaken part of town that is also part of Center City. In August 2015, developer Bart Blatstein and business partner Joseph Volpe, of the Cescaphe Event Group, acquired the former Delaware Power Station site for $3 million. The pair has proposed converting the derelict power plant into two hotels, two event spaces, and restaurants.