Gas and Electric Service
The first utility company in Fargo was the Fargo Gas Light and Fuel Company,which was given a franchise in October 1881. The company erected a gas plant was erected at the intersection of NP Avenue and 11th or 12th Street north, and the first gas was delivered to the gas mains in 1885 for local streetlights. The gas was of poor quality and each individual streetlamp had to be turned on and off daily. Gas was a fire hazard for indoor use and left a film of soot.
The Fargo Electric Light and Power Company was granted its franchise on November 7, 1881. They built their first electric generating plant in 1882, located approximately at 8th Street and NP Avenue. Electric lights shown for the first time in Fargo on April 12, 1883. The Argus editorialized the next day that "Last night Fargo was radiant."
One of the company's main purposes was street lighting. Fargo's earliest street lighting came from two 160-foot-high lighting towers that, according to city specifications, had to be bright enough so people could read "coarse print" a half-mile away. One light tower was erected at the intersection of the NP tracks and Broadway. A second tower was erected at Broadway and 4th Avenue. These towers were destroyed by a tornado in 1897 and never rebuilt.
In the engraving (circa 1883-1885) above one can see the Headquarters Hotel on the left and the NP tracks in the foreground. The light tower stood in the center of the east side of Broadway. The enormous height of the tower can be easily judged.
The engraving above left looks south on Broadway. The three story building south of the tower was to become Moody's. The picture above right is later as the Yerxa store has been erected just north of the Headquarters Hotel.
On May 1, 1888 a new company, the Fargo Incandescent Light Company, was granted a franchise. In 1889 the Fargo Electric Light and Power Company merged with this new entity to become the Fargo Gas and Electric Company. A new electric plant was built adjacent to the gas plant, and the old equipment was moved to this site.
In 1898 the Hughes Electric Company was given a franchise. They built their new plant along the Northern Pacific tracks, across from the depot, and behind the Herbst Department Store. The grounds were leased from the railroad. This new company was incorporated by Alexander Hughes and his son Edmond Hughes. The Hughes family was important in the manufacture of the first electric ranges, which later became Hotpoint, Inc., the appliance manufacturing subsidiary of General Electric.
The Hughes Electric Company changed it name to the Fargo Edison Company in 1900. The company installed steam heating mains in the downtown area, as well as providing a 24-hour electric service. Their business grew rapidly, and competition between the Fargo Edison Company and the Fargo Gas and Electric Company became bitter. Each tried to steal each other’s customers and even each other’s poles. In 1903 the two companies finely merged to become the Union Light Heat and Power Company. In 1904 the old Fargo Gas and Electric plant was dismantled and a new gas plant was built on the site.
In the summer of 1902, the Union Light Heat & Power Company was organized to acquire and consolidate the small electric and gas companies operating in Fargo. Consumers Power Co. acquired Union in 1910. Consumers Power became Northern States Power Co., the Fargo area's current electricity supplier, in 1916, but the city's electric, gas and heating plants continued operating under the Union name until 1937, when the company merged with NSP.
The Union Light Heat and Power Company was acquired in 1910 by the Consumer Power Company, which became Northern States Power in 1916. The Union Light Heat and Power Company continued to operate under its own name until 1937 when it took the name of its owner Northern States Power.
In 1911 the Fargo and Moorhead Railway Company was acquired by the Union Light Heat and Power Company. Since its founding in 1902, the street cars current had been supplied by the power company. It was abandoned in 1937. The Union Company organized the Northern Transit Company in 1926, a bus company that was later sold in 1937.
A complete rebuilding of the downtown steam plant was completed in 1916.
The gas plant (shown right) required a rebuilding again in 1925, when the method of producing gas changed to water-carburetion.
In 1960 natural gas came to Fargo and the gas plant was shut down.
In 1938, the company invested over $1 million in improvements to their electric plant to provide additional generating capacity and to permit use of North Dakota lignite coal exclusively in the plant. In 1940, 75,000 tons of coal were used annually. At that time, NSP supplied steam heat to 160 customers in Fargo, gas service to 8,000 customers in Fargo and Moorhead, and electric service to 10,000 customers in Fargo and nearby towns. Early pictures of the electric plant can be seen here opposite the NP depot.
The electric and steam plant across from the NP depot was dismantled in 1971 after it had become obsolete with power being supplied by sources outside of the city.