Tucked behind the salt grass of Sherman Creek, along the western bank of the Harlem River, hides a green oasis of winding pathways known as Swindler Cove. Amid the barking squawk of black-crowned night herons, the courtship songs of spotted sandpipers and sharp whistled notes of Louisiana water thrushes visitors are exposed to an explosion of natural splendor. Bees and butterflies weave carefree circles around the purple blossoms of native ironweed, yellow seaside goldenrod and the soft white flowers of crape myrtle.
But take a step back in time and the tranquil scene dissolves into a soot-choked landscape from Manhattan’s industrial past.
Now an uptown treasure, Swindler Cove once sat in the shadow an eight-story, 62,000 square-foot, coal-burning power station whose roar could be heard throughout the neighborhood.
The Sherman Creek Power Generating Station
On a rainy January morning in 1914 nearly one thousand riders converged on the Dyckman Street subway station in northern Manhattan. The group, which included members of the Brooklyn Engineers Club and the Municipal Engineers of New York, were invited guests of the United Light and Power Company, and were on hand to witness the official opening of the company’s new power generating station located on West 201st Street, where Sherman Creek meets the Harlem River.
The scene was animated despite the mid-winter’s chill that Saturday morning. As the engineers, investors and media awaited transport for the last leg of the journey they excitedly discussed the plant, said to be the largest and most modern of its kind in the world.
Construction on the six million dollar facility had begun two years earlier on land purchased by the Edison Company in 1905. The two-acre site was comprised of thirty lots bound by Academy Street, 201st Street and the Harlem River.
As the busses pulled up to the plant, the visitors must have been awestruck by the cathedral-like proportions of the powerhouse. The massive redbrick and steel structure, trimmed with terra cotta and granite, had been designed to deliver alternating current exclusively.
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