Vulcan Hydroelectric Central Station: Appleton's Water Power Makes History

Photographed March 14, 2015
Appleton, Outagamie County, Wisconsin

Appleton's Water Power Makes History
By the end of 1882, the nation's first commercial hydroelectric central power stations using the Thomas A. Edison system were servicing customers in Appleton. Entrepreneur Henry Rogers and his investors owned the two stations, which provided incandescent light to local homes and businesses. Within four years the two stations were combined to form the Vulcan Hydroelectric Central Station. Hydroelectric power from the Fox River went on to establish a number of other national firsts, including:
  • one of the first hydroelectrically lit hotels, the Waverly House in 1883
  • the first hydroelectrically lit college building, Ormsby Hall in 1886
  • the first commercially successful electric trolley system, which operated from 1886 until 1930
The marker is located adjacent to the Fox River at Vulcan Heritage Park, located at 535 West Water Street, Appleton, Wisconsin 54911.

Appleton, Wis., the first City in the world selling the incandescent light from a central station.
Left: From 1882 to 1886, two generators supplied the water-powered electric energy for Appleton. One was located in the Appleton Paper and  Pulp Mill; the other was further up the river at Vulcan Street. In 1909, the Vulcan Hydroelectric Plant -- currently a restaurant -- was built on the approximate site of the Vulcan Paper Mill. This plant closed in 1974. Right: Historic photo of the Vulcan Hydroelectric Central Station.
This small shed on Vulcan Street housed a single hydroelectric generator in 1882. The demand for electricity grew rapidly, however. By 1886, the Vulcan Street generator and the Appleton Paper and Pulp Mill generator combined to form one central station.

The marker is one of six placed along this walkway.

The marker is located at Vulcan Heritage Park.

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