New York City’s Historic Steam System

Let Me Remind You…
About New York City’s Steam System

Everyone knows what happens if you put a whistle-top kettle on the stove, half-full with water, and turn the heat up as high as it will go. When the water starts to boil rapidly, it produces steam, when that steam escapes through that whistle, you know it’s done and time to make tea.
But what if you boil water to 305-450 degrees Fahrenheit in a closed system with strategically placed vents, like radiators and other systems of pipes throughout a building? You now have heating, cooling, steaming and in some instances, even sanitization.

Harnessing and controlling the power of steam is not a new invention by any means. The ancient Romans were one of the first to use steam to heat up their homes and baths.
A few hundred years later, in 1882, some businessmen in New York City started the New York Steam Company, providing steam heating/cooling to over 300 buildings. The city gave them a contract and they built the first boiler plant at the site of the world trade center.

But in 1888, a blizzard blanketed the city in snow, knocking out power lines and forcing everyone inside, trying to stay warm. This tragedy was an eye opener for officials. They saw how efficient steam power was for the 300 buildings and they extended the contract to service over 1500 buildings in NYC, which happens to be the same number today. Some saying closer to 1800.

Using steam instead of coal reduces carbon emissions (though I’m not certain they were overly concerned about that at the time), and changed how we see NYC today. If it weren’t for the steam system, the skyline would be dotted by buildings covered in chimneys and the power grid would be far more extensive and less eco-friendly.

1888 blizzard leaves the city blanketed in snow

NYC has the largest steam system in the world, larger than the other major steam-using cities put together.
Some of the more notable buildings that have always used steam include the Empire State building, The Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and Rockefeller. Apartment buildings in NYC still have steam heating/cooling systems.
Having steam used in these buildings allows for other buildings like hospitals to divert the use of electricity for modern machinery like MRI’s and Xrays  etc. and using the steam for heating/cooling, sanitizing and laundry.
Museums even use the steam technology to help regulate the humidity in the galleries in order to help preserve the artwork, restaurants use it to sanitize dishes and laundromats use it for pressing clothing.

The great part about the steam system is that it can be tapped into without requiring your own boiler. Kind of like just attaching a pipe under your sink to drain in more than one place.
Obviously, it would be efficient to have your own boiler system, especially if you’re not near one of the boiler plants, and even though the entire system is completely interconnected, some places do have their own system. NYU has the largest privately-owned facility. These smaller plants are called “co-generation plants”.

But with the massive power of steam being forced through the pipes comes disaster. A user on a forum* said that he was speaking with a ConEdison employee about why residents on a massive stretch of the city didn’t have water leading up to Hurricane Sandy. The employee said, “ they’re doing it so that floods won’t hit the steam pipes and cause explosive rupture, with flying manholes to boot.”
Despite being made from heavy metal and getting serviced monthly, there’s still room for error, or fluke accidents, usually caused by a compromised pipe that’s decades old, affected by something called “steam hammer” or “water hammer”, which can lead to a faulty steam trap and cause explosion. this usually occurs when the hot steam is traveling through the pipes and runs into something cold, like water. These have happened a few times in the past. A couple notable ones happened in 1989, and another in 2007.

1989 steam pipe explosion

So next time you’re in NYC, If you see one of the iconic orange and white stacks in the street, shooting steam out the top, that means they’re working on some pipes below. If you’re lucky, you might have seen an (illegal) art installment by an artist, Mark Reigleman II,  who makes small houses to put over the stacks and it looks like steam is coming out the chimney. Though the city is aware of him, they haven’t been able to catch him yet.  

Mark Reigelman art installation: “Smokers”

fun fact: 1 gallon of water will produce 8lbs of steam.

Sources: (photo only)

As always, thank you for taking the time to read! Have a great day!

Kristina Moore is the Author of The Pecan Trees, available on Amazon.

The Origin Of The Flower Girl

Let Me Remind you…

Of the origin of flower girls.

               We can thank the Roman Empire (4th-5th century) for crafting this custom of cute little girls, usually tossing rose petals down the aisle, smiling brightly in their 15 minutes of fame—or crying, as the bride ambles down a velvet carpet behind her, to her groom.

               In ancient Rome, It’s likely she was chosen to represent the bride in her youth, with the bride following behind. The procession represented the woman being passed from childhood into adulthood, and soon-to-be motherhood.
The little girl was typically dressed similarly as the bride and held a basket or a sheath of herbs and wheat, instead of flowers. She would toss them along the path in front of the bride to embody and bring forth fertility and blessings. In some instances, she would carry a ring, or bundle of garlic to ward off bad spirits and offer protection.

Over 1000 year later, when the tradition was adopted into the Elizabethan era, not much changed. Though, the flower girl would now toss rose petals, a symbol of love. She would start from the bride’s house and guide her all the way to the church.

Over the years, the tradition stayed the same, but the dresses changed. They went from bride’s dress copies to elegant puffy things, to a flapper-style dress in the 20’s to slowly what you see today.

The flower girls have always been the youngest person in the wedding party, around the age of 6-8 years old. Today, they are typically a family member, maybe even a daughter, or friend’s child. Some women today even opt to have no flower girl at all. The custom has certainly changed from something that had a strong preternatural belief to the desire to be able to include all ages into one’s ceremony.

Did you have a flower girl? (reply on my Instagram post @Kristina_moore_author)

Online Sources:


(more were read, but with no new info)

The Great Fires of New Orleans

Let Me Remind You…About the Great Fire(s) of New Orleans  

It was 1:30pm, on March 21, 1788, the sun was starting to warm the Mississippi shores of Louisiana, or then known as “The Territory of Orleans”. Spring was warming the air and bringing birds to sing their song in the budding trees. It also brought a cool, but very strong wind from the Southeast.
Near Jackson square, at the home of the Spanish army treasurer, Don Vincente Jose Nuñez (say that five times fast), the family gathered for a Good Friday meal. A prayer was said and many candles were lit on the alter to pay their respects. Somehow during this meal, the candles managed to catch the home on fire. The wooden structure caught flame like a match struck with a flint.

 Don Vincente and his family escaped the home, screaming for the neighbors to get out of their homes. Like many ‘great fires’ throughout history have shown us: wood was a New-World way of building and it was far from fireproof. Unfortunately, when the French settled the New Orleans area, that was their main building material of choice and the French quarter was pretty much one big stack of timbers.

The strong wind carried the lick of the flames to the homes adjoining the Nuñez’s. Many of the women and men ran into the streets, carrying their children and only what they had on their backs. They watched as one-by-one, houses were engulfed by flames; smoke billowing into the sky, blotting out the sun; flames shot out of the windows like a dragon’s tongue tasting the air. The smell of burning timber filled their senses as they ran to get away from the heat of the flames, leaving behind everything they knew of their life just an hour before.

Pedestrians frantically ran to the churches, which would normally ring their bells to alert the residents of the French Quarter to emergencies, but they were denied. The priests refused to ring the bells because it was Good Friday.

Over the next five hours, the flames continued to spread like magnets to metal shavings. More and more homes and businesses catching fire, forcing more people into the streets to watch the destruction, choking on tears, sweat and smoke until finally the fires rescinded to the embers throughout 856 of the 1100 structures in New Orleans. 80% of the city was lost that day. The damage stretched between Dauphine and Chartres along the Mississippi; from Conti to St. Philips.

During the fire, men grabbed whatever they could and moved Her Majesty’s Treasures, any of the auditor’s papers and ammunitions or weapons they had stored. But many people had their own stash of guns and gun powder hidden in their homes, which exasperated the flames, combusting at every chance they got. The only two fire trucks that were in the city were burned as well.

Just like in the normal, New Orleans spirit, people who were unaffected by the fire stepped up and offered to help. Even crowd funding to rebuild the city. The people who lost their homes could apply for a tent to stay in just outside the city, if they had no family to stay with.

When Governor Esteban Miro Wrote to the Queen in Spain, he stated that the damages were estimated to be at $1,080,000, or $3,000,000 including personal belongings. Today, that would equal to over $59,000,000. Never-the-less, they rebuilt and continued on with living… Until 1794, when the second Great fire struck New Orleans.

Less is known about this fire, or how it started, but it happened on December 8, 1794, just a mere six years after the first. New Orleans had already been hit by two hurricanes that year and was not in the mood for something like this. Though this fire did significantly less damage, it still took 212 of the 1100 structures. Among those structures was the jail, where the inmates were moved to a schooner that was held offshore called the Nuestra Señora Del Carmen. They would remain there until February.

A notable man in this story is Andres Almonaster y Roxas. He was born of a noble family and once in New Orleans became the Notary Public. He solely funded the rebuilding of the Cabildo after both fires, along with providing funds for many other charitable endeavors to help the residents of the city.

Some of the structures that escaped both fires are still intact today, unaffected by the fire or time. One of them is a popular bar at the end of Bourbon St. called Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It has remained mostly unchanged inside and out. Another is the Ursuline Convent, which has been renovated due to the disintegration of the aged building materials.

After the second fire, that was the last straw. New Orleans developed and continues to have strict fire codes. When the buildings were rebuilt, they are what you now see: wrought iron balconies, courtyards and brick or stucco facades. This look has become traditional New Orleans style.
To this day you must have a permit for things like, cutting or welding on your property, fumigation, and many more obvious open-flame permits. The houses must be made of more fire-proof materials like brick and abide by a strict building code to avoid repeating history.


The Frank Slide

Let me remind you… About the Frank Slide               

“The mountain that moves.” That’s what the Blackfoot and Kutenai Indians In Alberta Canada called this peak nestled in the base of the Rocky mountains. This did not deter the people who Eventually settled in the little town below it that they called Frank. In fact, they renamed it “Turtle Mountain” after the shape. The original name of the mountain didn’t seem to create any worry for the 600 people who lived there, but in 1903, just 2 years after calling it home, this would prove to be tragic.

At 4am on April 29, 1903, the miners of Frank were already deep in the mountain side. Their wives and children still asleep in their beds below in the town. Ten minutes later, a small rumble turned into a roar as the mountain side– exasperated by the mining– had given way to years of the small movements and completely sheared off, just as the natives predicted.

120 miles away in the city of Cochrane, the roar could be heard echoing off of the mountains, but no one knew what it was. The settlers of Frank, the town named after the Montana miner who founded it in 1901, were not so lucky.
Boulders the size of cars rolled and bounced off one another, flowing as easily as water in a riverbed. Trees, rocks and 80-100 million tons of mountainside debris buried a section of the town in less than 90 seconds. When the mountainside finally stopped moving and there was no more rumbling, the residents were 490 feet below the rubble in a state you can only imagine.

Out of the 600 people that day, 90 people perished in the slide. Out of the 90, only 12 bodies were recovered. There are stories about a sole baby found alone. Her name was Glayds Ennis; saved by her mother, who cleared the mud from her airways. Frankie Slide was another name they gave to some other fictional babies who they claimed to be the “only survivor” of the slide, “found on top a boulder”. Unfortunately, this was just a rumor that many people who survived like to take credit for.

17 miners were trapped after the slide. After many hours they managed to dig their way out where they were confronted with a sight that would make their heart crumble and stomachs flip. Once, where they could look down on the houses where their families lived, now all they could see was rock all the way to the other side of the foothills.  They rushed down to help, searching for their families, now buried almost 500 feet below with the weight of thousands of tons on them. But it was too late. Without modern day tools—and even with them, the effort was regretfully useless.

Not much more is known about the event that day but if you ask any Albertan, they will be able to tell you about it. Driving through the Frank slide gives off a very eerie feeling knowing what lies beneath. Looking up at the mountain side, you can still see the scar where the rock fell.

 In 1906, they built a road through the rubble, and in 1922, during some road repairs, 7 more bodies were recovered, bringing the total to 19 out of 90.
It was known to be the largest landslide in Canada to this day. The mountain? It still moves; about 1cm per year. There is a monitoring system along with an interpretive center on the mountain. They say one day there will be another slide. Luckily, there are no homes in the way now. Buildings were moved, including the Frank Imperial hotel, which now sits in Vulcan, Alberta.

If you go to frank today, you could drive right through, barely noticing anything but a bunch of rock and boulders on either side of the road, but the tale is one that will linger forever.

*Edit: from what I hear, that whole area, for miles, is allegedly haunted.

Online Sources:
Mysteries of Canada
the Canadian encyclopedia