Ottawa Valley Culture

Canada’s First Electric Streetlight

Pembroke was the first town in Canada to have electric power generated for commercial use and to install electric streetlights. On October 4. 1884 the very first electric street lights were illuminated along Pembroke Street beating many larger communities to the new innovation. A grist mill on Pembroke Street east (across from current-day city hall) shadowed as an electrical plant at night providing electricity for street lighting, factories and churches in town. The station generated power using water from the Muskrat River and set Pembroke ahead as one of the most innovative communities in Canada. In Toronto, electric lighting was then only in an experimental stage, a single street light having been placed at a downtown corner of Yonge St. during the latter part of 1884. Ottawa and Hull adopted the incandescent light in 1887.

Electric power was given to Pembroke through the enterprise of the late W.B. McAllister, who at that time occupied an important place in the business and industrial life of the town. The system was created by the United States Electric Light Company, represented by Ahearn & Soper of Ottawa, and produced both arc and incandescent lighting.

The Pembroke Hydro Museum is housed in the original diesel room of the Pembroke Electric Light Co Ltd. It contains original light fixtures and artefacts dating back to 1884. The Pembroke Hydro Museum commemorates national hydro-electric development in Pembroke, including the first electric streetlights in Pembroke, and the first municipal building with electric lights (Victoria Hall).

The station generated power using water from the Muskrat River and set Pembroke ahead as one of the most innovative communities in Canada.

Creativity and Innovation

"What must heaven be, when this is so bright?" was the suppressed exclamation of a pious old lady on Sunday evening in one of the churches illuminated by the electric light.

- The Pembroke Observer, Oct 19, 1884