On the afternoon of September 4, 1882, Thomas Edison turned a switch at the Pearl Street generating station in New York City and energized the world’s first large scale electrical distribution system.
The Edison system operated at about 110 volts direct current on a two wire plan and it provided enough energy for 800 lights. Few could foresee the immense social and economic impact that Edison’s new distribution system was to have on the industrialized world. Private interests in New Brunswick were not long in realizing the potential of this new and revolutionary technology.
During the late 1880’s, there was brisk competition between two companies in Fredericton to satisfy the increasing demand for electricity.
The Fredericton Electric Light Company supplied the first commercially available electricity in the city on October 29, 1887. Using the Waterhouse Arc System, they provided electric lights for the skating and curling rinks, seven businesses, and even a lamp at the gate of A.F. Randolph’s residence on Regent Street.
The Fredericton Gas Company had been providing coal gas for lighting businesses, homes and street lamps from their Shore Street plant since 1850. The company realized that electric lighting was going to involve tough competition and began producing electricity in their gas plant in 1888.
City council granted the Fredericton Electric Light Company permission to install poles on the south side of Queen Street while the Fredericton Gas Company was granted permission to set poles on the north side of Queen Street. In addition, the telephone company already had poles in place along the street. This unsightly maze of poles and wires caused a public outcry.
In 1889, the two companies merged and their equipment was installed in this building at 120 Carleton Street.