Welcome to London Civic Watch

"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Hydro Shop 1912-56

If you look up “Hydro Shop” on Google, you’ll get a lot of information about where to get stuff for a grow operation. The original Hydro Shop established in London, Ontario in 1912 at the corner of Dundas and Wellington, right next to the old city hall has almost been forgotten.

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.


Anonymous said...

This story is a lesson in how the "next big idea" can be sparked by political leaders! In 1910 London's mayor turned MPP implemented electrical power; come 1912, the city's power utility was the driver behind connecting every household to the grid.

That vision is missing in today's London. We need to find those Londoners who can lead this city back to prosperity.

Laura said...

What a delightful post!!

Anonymous said...

Please accept my regrets. I would feel very uncomfortable with one of the invited guests. The one who tried to sell London Hydro early in his term.

Charmoose said...

Excellent bit of London's history. I appreciate your posting it and look forward to London having some visionary leaders in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Anon. Who says he is done trying to sell hydro?