E MADISON ST - E SIDE OF CHIPPEWA RIVER | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record


Architecture and History Inventory
E MADISON ST - E SIDE OF CHIPPEWA RIVER | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Chippewa Valley Railway Light & Power Co. Substation
Other Name:Northern States Power Company Sub-station/storage
Reference Number:41510
County:Eau Claire
City:Eau Claire
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1912
Survey Date:1981
Historic Use:power plant
Architectural Style:Neoclassical/Beaux Arts
Structural System:
Wall Material:Concrete
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished Date:1992
National/State Register Listing Name:Not listed
National Register Listing Date:
State Register Listing Date:
Additional Information:DEMOLISHED 3/92. Located on the east bank of the Chippewa River, the substation building is a two story concrete structure that reflects in a simplified manner, the Neo-Classical Style. The facade is symmetrically arranged and features a central entrance flanked by large multi-paned openings. Above the entrance, which is classically framed, is a panel containing the name of the building and the date of construction. On the second level are small openings which are grouped in three sets of three windows. These openings, as well as the three major elements of the first floor, are separated by prominent piers that terminate near the roofline where a cornice is suggested. The east elevation is a nearly identical composition. This concrete structure, erected in 1912, served as the substation for the Chippewa Valley Railway Light & Power Company, one of the forerunners of the Northern States Power Company. Electric lighting was introduced in Eau Claire in the early 1880's with the formation of two electric companies - the Excelsior Electric Manufacturing Company and the Eau Claire Brush Electric Company. Eau Claire was the first city in the state to have competing electric companies. At the same time (1890) the Eau Claire Street Railway Company, organized in 1886 to provide horse car transportation, entered into an agreement with the two electric firms to provide electric street car services and to unify the production and distribution of electricity. A new company, the Eau Claire Street Railway Light and Power Company, was formed to accomplish these tasks. In 1896 the company went into receivership and the street car portion was sold to A.E. Appleyard, a Boston financier. The light and power operations were reorganized as the Eau Claire Light and Power Company. Appleyard expanded his operation in 1898 by joining with the Chippewa Falls Waterworks and Lighting Company to construct an interurban line between Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls. The new company formed of this merger was the Chippewa Valley Electric Railroad Comapany. In the early twentieth century Appleyard suffered some reverses and his company was purchased by a new firm composed of some of the city's leading citizens (O.H. Ingram, John S. Owen, Byron Buffington, Roy Wilcox, and C.T. Bundy). Almost immediately the new owners started talks with Frank Stout, a major stockholder in Knapp, Stout & Company, a Menomonie based lumber company which during the last half of the nineteenth century controlled the Red Cedar River. In 1905 the lumber firm was being liquidated and its assets were a part of the Wisconsin Power Company, which was dominated by Knapp, Stout stockholders. Following lengthy negotiations, a bargain was struck as the Eau Claire based power company combined with the Stout and Wilson families to tap the hydroelectric resoruces of both the Chippewa and the Red Cedar Rivers. In 1907 a new corporation was organized - the Chippewa Valley Railroad Light and Power Company which owned the Chippewa Valley Electric Railway Company, the Eau Claire Light and Power Company, the Eau Claire Street Railway Company, and the Wisconsin Power Company. Expansion followed the official incorporation with the company acquiring additional dam sites and extending service into the surrounding region. Despite the assurance of a prosperous future, the power company was sold to Kelsey and Brewer of Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1914. The two men embarked on an ambitious development plan which resulted in the construction of the dam at the rapids at Paint Creek on the Chippewa River (Lake Wissota was formed by this dam). The project was a costly one that put Kelsey and Brewer's company, the Wisconsin-Minnesota Light and Power Company, into financial chaos. As a result the regional concern was purchased by the Northern States Power Company in 1923.
Bibliographic References:(A) Building inscription. (B) McDonald, Forrest. 1957. Let There Be Light. (C) Poulter, James. 1972. "A Historical Study of the Chippewa Valley Railway Light and Power Company," M.S., University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, State Historic Preservation Office, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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