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PECO Delaware Station Recommended for Historic Designation

It’s also up for national recognition

The designation committee of the Philadelphia Historical Commission unanimously voted today to recommend that the PECO Delaware Station next to Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown be added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

The nomination was submitted by Stephanie Haller and Jill Betters, who acknowledged that they are not historic preservation professionals, but were simply long-time residents in favor of preserving the iconic power plant.

In their nomination, Haller and Betters requested that the PECO Delaware Station be considered for historical designation based on criteria A, B, D, E, H, and J. The committee agreed that the site met all criteria save for B, which states that a site "is associated with an event of importance to the history of the City, Commonwealth or Nation."

The PECO Delaware Station, formerly known as the Delaware River Generating Station, dates back to 1917, when it was designed by architect John T. Windrim and built by Stone and Webster. It's a massive 223,000-square-foot steel and concrete behemoth that operated as a major electrical power plant until 2004.

Today, it’s owned by Joe Volpe and Bart Blatstein, who bought the property for $3 million in August 2015 and have plans to turn the site into an events space with a banquet hall, restaurants, guest rooms, and surface parking.

A representative for Volpe said that the developers had no plans to demolish the building. Kevin McMahon, of the historical preservation services firm Powers & Company, in fact urged the committee to suggest that the nominators resubmit the application because it did not do the property’s significance enough justice.

"There's no question that this property is significant," McMahon said. "The owner doesn’t object to the nomination, just that the nomination should make a stronger case than it currently does."

McMahon himself nominated the PECO Delaware Station to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. He said the application is expected to be accepted in just a few weeks.

With the committee’s vote of approval, the nomination of 1325 Beach Street now goes to the Philadelphia Historical Commission for official designation. The next meeting is on Friday, July 8 at 9 a.m.

[Editor's note: A previous version of this article said that Haller and Betters had no prior experience in historic preservation or architecture. Haller has a background in architectural design.]