One of the things we take for granted today is electricity. We plug stuff in and the stuff whirrs to life, lights up, cools down, washes our clothes, cooks our food, and so on and so on. We tend to only notice electricity when something goes wrong, during a power outage or when the things we plug in don’t work.
It wasn’t always that way.
In many ways, electricity is a new thing. We’re not much more than 130 years out since mankind first harnessed electricity for productive use, and much less farther away from when electricity became a business. Today, we are familiar with long-distance powerlines hanging overhead, running through the landscape, but we are less familiar with the generation facility at the other end of those lines. Driving through the Midwest and rural areas in other parts of the country, we might spot wind farms, and we can usually see solar panels right in our own neighborhood, but chances are there isn’t a power plant on your block.
That wasn’t the case in the 1920s in Hartford, if your block was inside, what is now the Ann Street Historic District. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been here before. We visited Pearl St. and we visited St. Patrick – St. Anthony Church. When we visited Pearl St., I warned you that we would have to return. I have returned. While I don’t think I’m reusing any photos, some of the photos might include buildings you’ve seen before. That’s because the Ann St. District is pretty small, and jam-packed full of history.
The building I am reusing once housed the steam plant of the Hartford Electric Light Company. Today, electric utilities are big statewide, often multi-state deals. When electricity was in its infancy, utilities were local. HELCO has the distinction of being the first company to bring electricity to customers in our area, and the first company anywhere to use a steam generator to generate power for a public utility. According to Connecticut History’s website:
“In 1881, over 1,000 gaslights lit 80 miles of streets in Hartford. The Hartford Electric Light Company began operations with a steam-powered electrical generating plant on Pearl Street on April 7, 1883, serving 6 customers with 21 arc lamps. By the end of September 1888, a HELCO arc lamp had replaced the city’s last gas streetlight.”
A few remnants of that original system remain standing today. My daughter and I used to paddle a canoe around Rainbow Reservoir, a small recreational lake near our town that sits behind the dam and generator complex that first sent power to Hartford in 1893. There are also a couple of buildings in downtown Hartford that were hooked up to that original power generation station.
Today’s gallery includes some photos of the buildings that remain in Hartford, as well as some historic photos from various archives. Due to some construction vehicles in front of the old HELCO building the day I was there, I copied a few shots from Google Earth
If you like these photos, you should think about tapping into the circuit that travels from the primary generation station in Montreal, Canada. That’s the location from which Norm Frampton transmits a worldwide flow of Doortricity. When you visit Norm’s station, be sure to look at his doors. Then, look for the blue frog – please be careful – don’t touch the frog with your bare hands, stay safe and use your computer mouse. The frog will put you on the grid with all the other door-photo-generators. You can add your doors to the mix, or you can sit back and enjoy. Either way, your enjoyment is, as they used to say, too cheap to meter, i.e. free.
Thanks for visiting No Facilities.