Longmont Power & Communications: A Century of Service
Electricity first arrived in Longmont in 1886 from a generator placed in a business owned by N.H. Crocker near Third Avenue and Main Street. This small generator powered three lamps in the Bank of Longmont and five lamps at Persian's store. Eventually, a steam-powered electric plant was built in 1889 and, a year later, lights were installed on street corners throughout the central business district.
In 1892, Longmont's electric supply fell short of the community's needs and the city granted a 20-year franchise to the Northern Colorado Power Company (NCP). When NCP asked to renew this franchise, citizens protested because they weren't satisfied with existing rates and service. Their access to electricity was so limited that they could only use their electric lights between 6 pm and 8 pm, and homeowners who needed extra light bulbs had to obtain permission from city council. They believed they could do better.
In April of 1911, a proposal to form a city-owned utility in Longmont was put to a vote and passed by an overwhelming majority. Almost immediately, construction began on a hydroelectric power plant and transmission system to bring electricity from the plant and into Longmont. This plant is located just west of Lyons and is still in use today.
Longmont's vote was not well received by NCP which actively tried to stop the process. When NCP refused to sell its infrastructure, 63 of Longmont's citizens pledged $1,000 each toward the project to complete the needed funding.
In November 1911, when work on the new plant was nearly complete, NCP obtained a temporary injunction to keep Longmont from issuing bonds to further pay for the new plant. A grassroots movement to protest NCP began. As part of this movement, many citizens stopped using NCP electricity and used only kerosene lights until the connection to their municipal utility became available.
Despite these struggles, on January 5, 1912, Longmont received its first power from the hydroplant in Lyons. NCP continued to work through the courts to stop Longmont from distributing electricity until March 7, 1912 when Longmont won a final district court injunction suit and was allowed to serve the City. By the next day, approximately 125 new connections to the service were established. Within a week, that number increased to 600 connections.
Despite these struggles, on January 5, 1912, Longmont received its first power from the new hydroelectric plant. NCP continued efforts to stop Longmont until March 7, 1912, when Longmont won a final district court injunction suit and was allowed to provide service. By the next day, approximately 125 new connections to the service were established. Within a week, that number increased to around 600 connections.
In appreciation of the sacrifice and support of the effort to municipalize, Longmont called itself "The City of Lights" and the city council declared that all customers would have a free, unmetered porch light. That tradition continues today, though many neighborhoods receive free pedestal lights or street lights instead of the porch lights their predecessors received.
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