Appleton, Wisconsin - The location of the first Edison hydroelectric plant in the world.
Appleton is a city north of Lake Winnebago overlooking the Fox River in Northeast Wisconsin.
Fur traders seeking to do business with Fox River Valley Native Americans were the first European settlers in Appleton. Hippolyte Grignon built the White Heron in 1835 to house his family and serve as an inn and trading post.
Appleton was settled in 1847 and incorporated as a village in 1853. John F. Johnston was the first resident and village president. Home to Lawrence University, Appleton grew along with the school.
Above: Map of Appleton, Wisconsin circa 1867.
The paper industry, beginning with the building of the first paper mill in the city in 1853, has been at the forefront of the development of Appleton.
In order to provide electricity to the paper industry, the nation's first hydro-electric central station, the Vulcan Street Plant on the Fox River,
began operation on September 30, 1882. The power plant also powered the Hearthstone House, the first residence in the world powered by a centrally located hydroelectric station using the Edison system.
Shortly thereafter, in August 1886, Appleton was the site for another national first, the operation of a commercially successful electric streetcar company. Electric lights replaced gas lamps on College Avenue in 1912. Appleton also had the first telephone in Wisconsin, and the first incandescent light in any city outside of the East Coast.
Above: Dam across the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin circa 1889.
The Appleton Edison Light Company
On September 30, 1882, the first centrally located electric lighting system using the Edison system in the West and the first hydroelectric central station in the United States began operation on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin. The Vulcan Street plant (the Appleton Gas Light Co.), later named the Appleton Edison Light Company, powered the two paper mills of H. J. Rogers' Appleton Paper and Pulp Co. and his residence, Hearthstone. Rogers, also president of the Appleton Gas Light Co., had been inspired by Thomas Edison’s plans for a steam-based power station in New York. With financial backing from three Appleton men, one a personal friend of Edison’s, Rogers began building this new venture during the summer of 1882, harvesting the power of the Fox River with a water wheel.
The water wheel, generators, and copper wiring took only a few months to install and test. Initial testing of the plant on September 27 was unsuccessful but the Edison “K” type generator powered up successfully on September 30.
The plant burnt to the ground in 1891 and, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original plant opening, an exact replica was built on South Oneida Street in 1932. In 1987, the replica plant was moved to its present location at the northernmost end of South Vulcan Street adjacent to the south bank of the Fox River.
Hearthstone Historic House Museum
The first residence in the world powered by a centrally located hydroelectric station.
The Hearthstone Historic House Museum is a historic home in Appleton, Wisconsin, United States that has been converted into a museum. On September 30, 1882, it became the first residence in the world powered by a centrally located hydroelectric station using the Edison system. The house still contains the original Edison electroliers, original light switches, and some of the world's only examples of original Edison wiring in situ.
Henry James Rogers, original owner of the house, was the manager of the Appleton Pulp and Paper Mill. The house's source of electricity was the Appleton Edison Light Company, the first commercial electric plant in America, which was put into operation two weeks after a much larger steam central power station in New York City, known as the Pearl Street Station. The house and two paper mills were powered by a dynamo located inside one of the mills. Distribution wires were bare copper, with light amounts of cotton used to insulate it. Wires were fastened to the walls with wood cleats. Tape was wound around wires where they passed through partitions. Fuse blocks were made of wood, as were the sockets and switch handles. Examples of this equipment still operate in the home.
For more information on the Hearthstone house, visit the Hearthstone Historic House Museum website at www.hearthstonemuseum.org
The Wisconsin Registered Landmarks program recognizes the Hearthstone house with an historical marker that reads:
For more information on Appleton, Wisconsin, visit Wikipedia.
Or, visit the Appleton Downtown, Inc. website at appletondowntown.org.
Buy books about Appleton at Amazon (Click on image below).
Outagamie, Calumet & Winnebago Counties
Above: Appleton, Wisconsin. Coordinates: 44°16′N 88°24′W
The first Edison hydroelectric plant in the world.
Above: Vulcan Street Plant replica. Located adjacent to the south bank of the Fox River, accessible at the northernmost end of South Vulcan Street. Historical marker reads:
On November 25, 1882, the Vulcan Street Hydroelectric Central Station began operation. The Vulcan Street Plant featured a direct-current Edison “K”-type dynamo and lit the homes of A. L. and H. D. Smith, five or six mills, a blast furnace, and other nearby homes with Edison bulbs. The Vulcan Street Plant represents and early use of hydro-power to generate electricity and perhaps one of the earliest examples of a hydroelectric plant that sold electricity commercially and provided incandescent lighting service to the public. In 1932, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original plant opening, this replica was constructed by the Wisconsin-Michigan Power Company. Like the original, it houses an Edison “K” dynamo. In 1987, the building was moved here from (now Olde) South Oneida Street.
Above: The historic Hearthstone House in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 2, 1974. Photo licensed by self [CC BY-SA 2.5], from Wikimedia Commons.
Above: Hearthstone in Appleton, Wisconsin is the first residence in the world electrified from a centrally located hydro-electric plant.
Above: Welcome to Appleton Downtown.
Above: Sneak Peak at the Historic Hearthstone House in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Above: The Last trolley in Appleton, Wisconsin.