Was the White House the First Home in America to Have Electricity?



Since we just celebrated Presidents’ Day, I thought about past presidents and the firsts that they encountered in their presidency. And as a Public Service Commissioner, I always have electricity on the brain. That made me wonder, Was the White House the first home to get electricity from a centrally located power plant?

If you answered “No” then you are correct. In 1882, Apple Edison Light Company, the first commercial electric plant in America, provided power to the home of Henry James Rogers, the owner of the Appleton Pub and Paper Mill. The home was originally known as the Henry J. Rogers Home, but is now called Hearthstone and is a museum on the National Register of Historic Places. (See photos below of Hearthstone then and now.)

Hearthstone in 1882

Hearthstone today

The White House did not get electricity for another 9 years when it was installed in 1891 during Benjamin Harrison’s presidency. The electrical work at the White House was planned as part of a project for wiring the State, War, and Navy Building which sits next door, and is known today as the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The Edison Company installed a generator for both buildings. Wires were strung across the lawn and into the White House under the conservatory. Wires were buried in the plaster, with round switches installed in each room for turning the current on and off. President Harrison and his wife, Caroline, refused to operate them for fear of a shock.

Until next week …




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