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Gas Company's Growth Since 1857

The Grand Rapids Gas Light company was organized in 1856, with these officers: President, Francis B. Gilbert; secretary and treasurer, Henry Martin; directors, Noyes L. Avery, George Kendall, Charles R. Rood. Thomas Smith was superintendent. Thomas D. Gilbert became secretary and treasurer after 1859 and held that office 30 years.

A plant was built at Ottawa avenue and Ferry street, and November 14, 1857, gas light was furnished to 38 customers. George Lovett, who had a store at Monroe avenue and Pearl street, is recorded as the first customer. Several stores on Monroe used gas light. P. J. G. Hodenpyl and John Terhune, Jr., had their names in small jets arranged across the front of their stores. John Kendall & Co. illuminated their show window on Canal (Monroe) street.

The city erected 23 street lamps, using gas. The first lamp post, at Monroe and Pearl, was the gift of President Gilbert of the company. The first street service was from Ferry street through Market, Monroe and old Canal streets.

In its first year the company laid four miles of mains and supplied 100 customers. In 1860 there were 280 meters and yearly sales mounted to 2,429,000 cubic feet. In 1870 about 12,000,000 cubic feet was produced and mains extended to the west side. In 1880 the first gas cook stoves were used and in 1890 the Welsbach light was introduced. In 1885 a new and larger plant was constructed on the present site at Wealthy street and Oakland avenue.

In 1895 the Grand Rapids Gas Light company was purchased by Emerson McMillin & Co., who in 1900 merged it with other gas and traction concerns into the American Light and Traction company. The local company is still a unit in that holding corporation.

At present the company has 43,097 customers. Gas consumption in 1925 was 1,425,000,000 cubic feet. The company has laid 300 miles of street mains and 43,558 meters are used. During the past two years $935,000 has been expended for improvements, and the 1926 budget is $475,000, which is being used to lay 30 miles of mains and furnish service connections to 2,000 buildings.

The company employs 450 persons and its annual payroll is about $625,000. In 1925 it paid $204,000 taxes. In recent years it has sold its securities to the public.

Gas rates at first were $4 per 1,000 cubic feet. The rates gradually reduced to 85 cents. The present figure, $1.11, was established after resort to the public utilities commission and the courts, as appears from the following:

The company's franchise from the city expired May 9, 1920. In that year the rate was $1, but prices for everything being on the increase, the city commission, after conference with the company, fixed it at $1.20. Prices still rising, the city commission later authorized an increase to $1.50. In the meantime an inventory had been taken of all the property and appraisals made by company and city. An effort was being madeto secure by arbitration an adjustment of the company's and the city's relative rights. This effort failing by joint petition of company and city, the question was submitted to the Michigan Public Utilities commission September 4, 1921.

The utilities commission, after a preliminary hearing, fixed a temporary rate at $1.30. The case was argued, and in December, 1922, submitted, after which, in February, 1923, the commission fixed the rate at $1.11, which rate is in force at the present time. The company brought suit in the United States district court to enjoin the enforcement of this order of the commission. But in 1924 it withdrew the case.


Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
Created: 16 January 2000
 URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/etten1926/gasco.html