That’s about to change. Tuesday, May 28th at 10 a.m. the Historic Sites Committee of the London Public Library in cooperation with London Hydro will be plaquing the building which housed the first Hydro Shop in Ontario.
The Hydro Shop was a project of the Board of Water Commissioners (PUC) designed to encourage the use of electrical appliances in the home for the convenience of the homemaker while building a customer base for the distribution of power from Niagara Falls, a pet project of Mayor and MPP, Adam Beck. It was through his leadership that London became the second city in Ontario to obtain hydro on November 30, 1910.
When efforts by the Commission's general manager, E.V. Buchanan, to encourage local businesses to undertake a campaign to promote domestic electrical appliances were met with resistance, the Board established its own retail store in 1912, first in the city hall on Richmond Street and then in a former drug store on the corner of Dundas and Wellington Streets. There it used innovative marketing tactics such as free home trials, cooking demonstrations in its showroom, and payments on the installment plan to attract more users.
|E.V. Buchanan, Promise and Performance, 1966.|
It was the first of its kind in Ontario. It is credited with attracting and retaining businesses like
McClary and Kelvinator and, under the direction of its creative manager E. V. Buchanan, with introducing the prototype for the Cascade 40 water heater , the first automobile block heater, and a forerunner of the smart meter. The Hydro Shop turned London into the electric range capital of North America, with more electric ranges per population than any other city.
The success of The Hydro Shop also spilled over to private businesses as public demand for reasonably priced electrical appliances increased. By 1956, the proliferation of such appliances—kettles, stoves, fridges, air conditioners, mixers, and curling irons—in electrical business and discount stores meant that the Board’s mission had been achieved and the Hydro shop was closed.
Adam Beck’s motto was dona naturae pro populo sunt (the gifts of nature are for the public). Through the operation of The Hydro Shop, the commission he established to oversee the distribution of electricity ensured that the farmer, the homemaker and the small businessperson shared in the benefits of affordable, reliable publicly owned power.
You can learn more about the Hydro Shop at the plaquing ceremony at 272 Dundas Street at 10 a.m. Tuesday. I hope you’ll join us.