Electric Lights for the
Railway did not just bring
Richmond Hill into
the age of modern transportation; it also brought electric lights to the
village. "This is an age of electricity," the local member of Parliament, W.F.
Maclean, told the January 1897 complimentary banquet to celebrate the arrival
of the radial line. "Electricity will change the whole tenor of social life,"
Richmond Hill Hardware Company welcomes the arrival of
electric lighting in 1912.
Electrical energy was not an entirely new phenomenon
Richmond Hill of
1897. For some years, village residents had benefited from two of its earlier
applications - the telegraph and the telephone.
Store had served as the local telegraph office since the early 1870s,
and to make a long-distance telephone call, villagers stopped in at
Jewellery Store after a phone was installed there in the late 1880s.
Richmond Hill's first
telephone exchange was established at
Sanderson's in 1905; by March of the following year,
twenty-five local listings appeared in an eastern Ontario telephone
But electric lighting was a much more dramatic and
visible application of the new technology. With its generating station at
Bond Lake and its utility
poles and overhead wires stretching up and down
Yonge Street as far as
the eye could see, the
Railway offered its surplus electricity for lighting and other energy
In April 1897, the
advertised its wares by turning on four electric lights in its waiting room at
Yonge Street and
Lorne Avenue - the
first electric lighting recorded in
Richmond Hill. That
August, as a public relations gesture, the company supplied electricity to
light the new bandstand in the
park east of the station.
The village council
responded to the innovations with considerable caution. Not until October 1906,
nearly a decade after the lights were turned on in the
Metropolitan waiting room, did council express an
interest in obtaining electrical power for street lighting and other purposes.
A special committee made inquiries through 1908, but council took no action.
Only when the Fire and Light Committee took charge in 1911 did the movement
gain momentum. A heady round of public meetings and enabling bylaws followed.
Local stores began advertising electric lighting fixtures.
In August 1912, council met with representatives of the
Toronto and York Radial Railway Company (the
Metropolitan's successor) to discuss arrangements. The
company proposed that power be supplied on a separate line from the
Bond Lake powerhouse, and
suggested that lighting could be turned on by the end of October. Thirty lights
would be hung in the centre of
Yonge Street, about
six metres (twenty feet) above ground and thirty metres (one hundred feet)
apart, while sidestreets would be lit at corners. Commercial and residential
customers could be connected to the system.
|Tea in the garden, with lace
tablecloth and all.
McConaghy, left, and
The scheme was workable, but as so often happened in
municipal life, it took a while for the project to get off the ground. "The
matter drags on in a peaceful sleepy way, characteristic of our Village past
and present," charged
Frank Todd in a letter
The Liberal. "Unless somebody or something
suddenly sets the alarm clock and wakes everybody up, it will continue, I am
sorry to say, in future."
|Ready for a sleigh ride in 1902 at the Newbery family
home, north of
Pictured left to right are
George Newbery with baby
Eleanor,Maude Murphy,Katherine Newbery (Mrs. W.F. Carter),
Newbery (Mrs. D.H. Pinkerton), and
Gertrude Murphy (Mrs. C.
No one set an alarm clock, but progress was slowly made
until, at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, December 30, electric streetlights came on in
Richmond Hill.Savage's furniture store
Store") lit up that same evening;
Store and the
Office turned on the juice the next night.
16 In March 1913, council established the
Richmond Hill Electric Light and Power Commission, with
as its first chairman.
|Tennis at the Newbery home,
circa 1900. Pictured left to right are
George Newbery 2nd.,Grace
Newbery (Mrs. D.H. Pinkerton),
Newbery,Katherine Newbery (Mrs. W.F. Carter),
Newbery,Gertrude Murphy (Mrs. C. Kelson), and
Richmond Hill had
caught up with the rest of urban Ontario, most of which had hooked up to
electric power systems through the 1880s, 1890s, and early 1900s. By 1912, in
fact, most municipalities were switching from private power suppliers to the
new publicly owned
|Josh Horner and
his milk wagon in front of the Horner family home on Lot 20, Concession 2,
Township. Horner operated the first milk delivery business in the
Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario.
barn raising near
July 28, 1908. One of the Rumble family farms later provided the nucleus for
decision to obtain power from the
Toronto and York Radial Railway Company prompted
criticism from certain outside quarters.
Richmond Hill is
being put on a side track," concluded the
Toronto Evening Telegram.
This "rising northern suburb" would now find itself "alien
from the commonwealth of hydro-electric municipalities." After comparing rates,
however, the hometown
convinced that Council "have made a very good agreement" with the radial
The Liberal,January 28, 1897.
April 22, and
August 19, 1897.
January 4,January 11, and
January 25, 1912.
August 29, 1912.
October 17, 1912.
January 2, 1913.
Toronto Telegram,December 12, 1912;
The Liberal,December 19,
Copyright © Richmond Hill Public Library Board, 1991