Over the past few months I’ve found myself pondering the evolution of something that we all take for granted on a daily basis. That is street lighting.
Some of you may recall that there was a plan proposed a couple of years ago to remove some of the city street lights in order to reduce costs. This plan was studied and was ultimately abandoned but it spawned another idea that has recently been put into action: LED lighting.
LED Street Lights Are The New Kid In Town
Over the past month or so you may have noticed the lighting in the city has slowly been changing from the high sodium form that have been used since, I believe, as early as the 1950’s to the newer and much more efficient LED form of street lighting. According to Public Works Director, Mike Bobinsky this change has been remarkably easy to bring into effect. It’s simply a case of changing out the heads on the poles for the newer LED lights.
In case you’re wondering the company that was contracted by the city for this work was Infinity LED lighting and they are based in Dover. This is a local company that prides itself on employing US Veterans who assemble the lights at the company’s facility in Dover. The cost of this project is estimated at $181,882 for which the city council appropriated $190,000 because as anyone who has ever undertaken a home project knows, it’s always better to have more than less in the budget.
There are 749 street lights in the city just in case you get asked the question at a trivia quiz, or what to impress your friends with your local knowledge. Eversource who bill the city for the electric used to power the lights have approved a $73,725 incentives package to the city once the project is completed. It is estimated that within two years the city will have recouped all of the monies spent on the project and will reap the benefits of much cheaper light bills. That is a win for everyone in this bloggers book.
A Brief History of Street Lighting In Somersworth
If you read regularly you will have no doubt about my love of Somersworth history. As I was thinking about writing this post, I began to wonder about the story of street lighting in the city and in my usual way decided to embark on some research. What I found is pretty fascinating at least in my book and I figured I would share what I found.
When Somersworth or as the part that we know as Somersworth began to take shape as a town in 1823 there was no street lightening. By the time 1850 had arrived the town of Great Falls as the place was known had grown to a place where street lightening was being considered. The town of Great Falls was formed when the textile/cotton mills began to be developed along the banks of the Salmon Falls River.
By 1850 there were 6 mills in operation and they required not only workers but also light so that work did not stop at dusk. Until that time that lighting was provided by lamps powered by whale oil. These lamps were not only inefficient as a light source but also a very smelly one. Traditionally a ceremony would take place on September 21st which was known as “The lightening Up” ceremony according to the diary of John Haines. From that date till early Spring the workers would be required to work under less than ideal lighting conditions.
New Technology 1850’s Style
One of the first company’s to utilize and harness it’s innovative power was the Great Falls Manufacturing Company. This was the company that owned the six mills that lined the banks of the Salmon Falls River. In 1850 it was to be a major sponsor of a bill that would be presented to the N. H. state legislation requesting the creation of a coal gas company in three towns in the State. One of these towns would be Great Falls. The charters for these three companies were granted and in 1850 work began on the Great Falls Gas Company.
The company would be situated next to the Great Falls Foundry which was located on Main street. Many of us are familiar with the area of Main street that is known as Smokey Hollow, the foundry is the main reason that it obtained it’s name. For many years the area was covered in smoke that was created by the two companies. During the 1850’s the foundry would employ 24 men whose job was solely to make the pipes that would eventually pump the coal gas into the mills that lined the banks of the river.
It would not be until later that year that the town selectmen would vote to bring a maximum of 25 street lights into various and strategic spots around town. According to the resolution that authorized a committee to decide on the placement of those lights the cost to the town would be no more than 1 1/4 cents per hour to run the lights.
Welcome To The Electric Age
For the next thirty years the city would be powered by these coal gas lights, according to town records. As the town grew so did the number of lights. In 1881 electricity would take over from gas as the main power source. Of course the mills would be retrofitted for electric lights long before the city lights. On November 1st 1881, the street of Great Falls were first illuminated by the wonder of electric light and that has remained the case ever since.
There have been various improvements in the world of electric street lighting since those first lights illuminated the streets of the city. The latest of these are now evident with almost 100% of the city being converted to LED as I write this.