Seattle City Light provides electricity and electrical and conservation services to its public and private customers. It is the largest public utility in the Pacific Northwest. Public responsibility for electrical energy dates to 1890 with creation of the Department of Lighting and Water Works. In 1902, Seattle voters passed a bond issue to develop hydroelectric power on the Cedar River under the administration of the Water Department. Electricity from this development began to serve Seattle in 1905. A City Charter amendment in 1910 created the Lighting Department. Under the leadership of Superintendent James D. Ross, the department developed the Skagit River hydroelectric project, which began supplying power in 1924. Both public and private power were supplied to Seattle until 1951 when the City purchased the private electrical power supply operations, making the Lighting Department the sole supplier. The Boundary Project in northeastern Washington began operations in 1967 and supplied over half of City Light's power generation. By the early 21st century, approximately ten percent of City Light's income came from the sale of surplus energy to customers in the Northwest and Southwest with the remainder of City Light's financial support coming from customer revenue. The current name of the agency was adopted in 1978 when the Department was reorganized.
Correspondence, news clippings, brochures and pamphlets, reports, typescript histories, and photographs relating to departmental history. The major topics include Superintendent John D. Ross, the Cedar Falls power plant, public power, energy in the Pacific Northwest, and the Skagit River power project.
Histories include timelines detailing the department's history, biographies of superintendents, and discussions of hydroelectric power. Speech transcripts are also included, and some material appears to have been prepared for a 1946 "publicity book," which was to include information on specific dams and power plants, statistics and financial data, maps, employee information, and feature stories. Histories and publicity materials stress the low power rates enjoyed by Seattle's citizens. References to the agency as "Your City Light" also appear frequently; one history states, "...it all belongs to the people of Seattle! You, as a Seattle citizen, are one of the owners of City Light. You may well be proud of this progressive, flourishing enterprise built from its own earnings, to bring the many benefits of low cost hydroelectric power to a great city."
Restrictions on Access :
Records are open to the public.Preferred Citation :
[Item and date], Seattle City Light Department History File, Record Series 1200-11. Box [number], Folder [number]. Seattle Municipal Archives.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.