Friday, July 24, 2020

How Aurora Received the Nickname "Aurora, the City of Lights"

Brady School
608 Columbia
Back in 1881, the City of Aurora's contract with the gas company expired. The city fathers signed a contract with the Aurora Electric Light and Power Company. The arrangement called for lighting the streets with sixteen 2,000-candle power electric lamps for five years at $6,000 a year. 

Travis Phillips, a prosperous farmer and grocer whose name will be familiar with everyone because of his gift of Phillips Park, was also the Mayor in the year of the first electric street light. Associated with him were aldermen W.W. Bishop, G.S. McCullum, C. Solfisburg, J.F. Thorwarth, H.G. Gabel, W.P. West, J. Dickes, J.W. Battle, E. Denney. J.D. Race and Th.H. Day and between them they arranged for Aurora's new lights. 

Center School
16 N Root St.
I'm sure you're wondering why I have photos of the schools here, give me a moment and you'll find out why 😉 

Electric lighting for a town of 13,000 had to have been exciting during this time period. Nothing was ever seen like this before. Keep in mind, this was before everyone had seen what the electric light could do, even before it was presented at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Much of the world relied on alternative sources of light such as daylight, candles, and gas or oil lighting. The new lamps first ever mounted anywhere to light a whole city, were placed on elevated towers 153 feet high and made from gas pipes. The lights were placed atop City Hall, Brady School, Young School, Center School, near the corner of Garfield and View Streets and near the corner of Broadway and North Ave and other vantage points that would light up good sized portions of the town.  With the photos here of Brady School, Young School and Center School, I had always wondered what these towers were. I thought that they were lightning rods of some sort. Come to find out they were these light towers!

Young School
417 5th St.
When the first of these big 2,000-candle power lights was turned on, Aurora became the first city in the world to light all its streets by electricity and "Aurora, the City of Lights" soon became a popular slogan. As darkness would fall, folks would stroll over to the nearest tower to stand and gaze in awe at the modern scientific marvel.

When the city's contract with the Brush Electric Co. and the Aurora Electric Lights and Power Company expired in 1886, the city fathers then decided that the high towers served to light up the skies better than the streets and brought them down closer to street level. In that year, 1886, the city installed an electric power plant of its own, securing power from the city-owned water pumping station north of the city on East River Road. In 1906, the power plant was rebuilt and expanded and the city provided its own power until about 1912, when a contract was made with the Western United Gas and Electric Company, predecessors of Public Service Company. 

City of Lights
Tracy Duran Collection

~ information from "Aurora, the City of Lights" by the Aurora Historical Society.

No comments:

Post a Comment