Exactly 100 years ago, electricity was a novelty in Elk River. In the year 1916, a new company, Elk River Electric built a power plant and installed lighting throughout the village. Until the work of F. D. Waterman in 1915, the only buildings to have electricity were the Blanchett Hotel and the Opera House. These were powered by gas fueled generators. Elk River developed very quickly into “a most modern” community.
Beginning in 1912, Fred Waterman opened negotiations with the village to build a dam and power plant for the city. The city itself agreed to maintain power lines and serve as the go between for customers and Waterman’s Elk River Electric Company. After three years of struggle to find financial backing, the plant was built and power sent through the city in January of 1916. Immediately, the streets of Elk River lit up. The Sherburne County Star News explained, “for lighting the streets 40 sixty candle power and 10 one hundred candle power lamps are being used.”
|Advertising electrical appliances for Christmas
in the Sherburne County Star News
With construction complete, the company advertising campaign moved forward. Newspaper advertising announced, “We have spared no pains or money to have Elk River retain its present envious reputation of being the best town of it size in the state by giving it the best lighting system.”
With Christmas 1916 approaching, the company took a new direction in advertising. “Electrical gifts have charm, beauty, and utility,” the company urged customers to buy the latest in new electrical appliances.
Although it would take another 40 years before electricity would reach every corner of the county, Elk River took a big step forward in lighting the city in 1916.