Oneida Street Station

Also known as: East Wells Power Plant
108 E. Wells and 816 N. Edison Sts., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Repurposed, this neoclassical revival building is listed on both the NRHP and is listed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers as a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.


Overview Looking Northeast

The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company began running streetcars and interurban rail lines in 1890. Powerhouses, like this one, were built to supply power to the railroad. Excess power was sold on the market.

Oneida Street (now Wells Street) was one of the street car lines.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning




The Oneida Street Powerhouse (also called the Wells Street Powerhouse) was originally built by The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company. T.M.E.R. & L.C. later evolved into Wisconsin Electric Power Company, which has evolved into WE Energies. The Electric Company operated a fleet of streetcars and interurban lines for many years, until interest in rail transit waned. The front of the building indicates that streetcars might have been housed in this structure at one time, but that has not been confirmed.

Wells Street was formerly known as Oneida Street.

TMER&LC began running streetcars in 1890, and power plants, such as this one, were built specifically to generate power for their rail lines. The company began to sell excess power, which was the basis of today's energy giant, WE Energies. Much steam power and heat is still used in downtown Milwaukee, through a network of steam lines that is still supplied by WE Energies.

This station saw the first experimentation with pulverized coal, a process that was widely disputed. After great success in producing electricity more efficiently, the process became widely accepted.

The power plant went offline in 1987 and was renovated into theaters. It is owned by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater Company and houses the Powerhouse Theater, Stiemke Theater, and Stackner Cabaret.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on December 6, 1984
Reference number
Architectural style
Late 19th and 20th Century Revival: Classical Revival
Areas of significance
Engineering; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Energy facility; Research facility
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1875-1899
Significant years
1890; 1914; 1919
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 2
Non-contributing buildings: 2
Non-contributing structures: 1

Update Log 

  • July 15, 2011: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added Tag: National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark
  • June 25, 2011: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • June 24, 2011: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated Description