Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

WATER ELECTRIC POWER

Morning Star, September 11, 2005, pg. 9

Good news. Yours truly will be at his familiar location in front of Citizenís Bank for the Festival of the Forks this Saturday, September 17. Come visit my Albion History booth and letís enjoy the Festival together.

As we mentioned last week, this month marks the 100th anniversary of the present Victory Park dam complex. In 1905 the Commonwealth Power Company (which had purchased the Albion Electric Light Company that year) contracted with George Dean to erect a replacement dam to increase the local water-powered electric generating capacity. Generating equipment had been originally installed in the old Red Mill on E. Erie St. by the AELC in 1903.

100 years ago, the upper water level by the waterfall and raceway was raised two feet, the tail race was widened, and the falling level below the electric plant was lowered two feet. This made the water flow faster and thus better turn the generator in the power plant. The wheel pit in the old Red Mill was also deepened, and workmen had to dig through rock in order to install larger dynamos (generators) and transformers in the building.

Albionís water-powered electric plant on E. Erie St. was first managed by Arthur G. Noble (1880-1965) from 1904 to 1910. That first year (1904), electric power was used for lighting purposes only, and there were only three customers: Bullenís Big Busy Store, C.S. Tucker Dry Goods, and George Mitchell Confectionery. The concept of electric power caught on and soon there were 236 electric customers using water-powered electricity in Albion. The electric current was 9Ĺ horsepower, with 7Ĺ horsepower of that being used by the J.W. Brant Company, a manufacturer of patent medicines. This plant also supplied Albion with electricity for street lighting, city buildings, and the fire station.

Commonwealth Power was acquired by Consumers Power Company in 1910, and at that time Mr. Noble left his position to go into the automobile business. He was replaced by George Stecker, and of course others in the years to come. The old Red Mill caught fire in June, 1913 as a result of lightning, and the Consumers Power building that stands on the site today was then erected.

From our this week we present a rare photograph showing the inside of the Commonwealth Power Company generating plant on E. Erie St., circa 1908. On the right is a large dynamo with a hook on top used for easy removal for repairs or replacement. The dynamo is being turned by a large rod that was rotated with gears from a wheel powered by the drop in water level from the millrace. On the left are the transformers and electric-making equipment. How many persons remember when electricity was produced by water-power at the generating plant on E. Erie St.?


Commonwealth Power Company generating plant, circa 1908

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