Holding Back the River: The Power of Appleton's Dams

Photographed March 14, 2015
Appleton, Outagamie County, Wisconsin
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The Power of Appleton's Dams
The dams that tamed the Fox River for navigation in the 1850s also supplied water power for local industry. Appleton had three dams controlling an approximate 38-foot drop in the river, providing an energy potential of 11,500 horsepower for local manufacturing and industry. The westernmost "upper dam" called Grand Chute was built in 1874. In the fall of 1882, this dam provided power to the world's first hydroelectric central power station using the Thomas A. Edison system, located inside the Appleton Paper and Pulp Mill.

The middle dam located at Oneida Street controlled water for the Edward West Canal. In 1884, a fourth central hydroelectric station using the Edison system was built on lower Oneida Street, firmly establishing Appleton's role as a national leader in the use of hydroelectric power.
The marker is located adjacent to the Fox River at Vulcan Heritage Park, located at 535 West Water Street, Appleton, Wisconsin 54911.

Lower Dam, Appleton, Wis.

Above: Appleton's historic dams remade the face of the riverfront and the community.

The marker is one of six placed along this walkway.

The marker is located at Vulcan Heritage Park.

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