Electricity comes to Janesville

The lights turned on in Janesville for the first time on December 7, 1882. Three months earlier electric service had started in Janesville when five local businessmen incorporated the Janesville Electric Company with the United States Electric Company.

Due to the high costs of what was then a poor service, the Janesville Electric Company lasted only six months. In 1885 the Thomson-Houston Company of Lynn, Massachusetts, built a waterpowered lighting plant, which improved and expanded what was previously known as the Janesville Electric Company. Six years later, in 1891, Pliny Norcorss, a local businessman, took over the plant, eventually improving and expanding the Janesville community’s electric service. That same year Doty Light and Power Company was organized to compete with Norcross’s plant only to be acquired by Norcross in 1899. Norcorsses’s owned an electric light plant in Fulton, Wisconsin and Janesville. Together they formed and reestablished the Janesville Electric Company (Janesville Historic Commission, 112).

In 1902 local businessmen purchased Norcross’s company. In an effort to modernize and expand Janesville’s electric service, they purchased buildings and waterpower rights, a hydroelectric plant was constructed, and waterpower was supplemented with steam power. A second hydroelectric plant, the Central plant, was later built around 1915 (Janesville Historic Commission, 112).

Established in Janesville, 1919, the Samson Tractor Division of General Motors was a considerably large factory. In order to supply electric power to the factory, the Samson tractor Division management contracted with Wisconsin River Power Company in Prairie du Sac (Janesville Historic Commission, 112).

April 16, 1924 Janesville Electric Co. merged with six other electric companies to form Wisconsin Power & Light (later, Alliant Energy). A new building was erected forty years later. The only historic artifact of the Janesville’s electric service is the Central plan, on the west end of the upper dam (Janesville Historic Commission, 112).