History: Looking Back
Seattle City Light has been lighting up lives in the city we serve since 1910, but our roots go back
to the beginnings of electricity. The light bulb was just seven years old in 1886 when the Seattle
Electric Light Company launched the first incandescent lighting system west of the Rockies.
As a utility owned by the citizens of Seattle, we take seriously our responsibility to be careful
stewards of all of our resources and are proud of our heritage as a
. This site
offers a variety of historical information, including the history of the
Skagit Hydroelectric Project
. Visit the City of Seattle's
Multimedia site for the
History of Seattle City Light
in streamed video.
The Seattle Municipal Archives
is another good place to visit. Online photographs of Seattle
City Light are cataloged and indexed. There is an online exhibit of the
Upper Skagit Watershed Photograph Project (1919-1989)
. The Seattle Municipal Archives is the official
site for City of Seattle historical records.
For an online encyclopedic history of Seattle and King County, visit
For photos, maps and text about Seattle and the Gold Rush years, visit the
Digital Northwest Collections
University of Washington.
The Romance of City Light
This collection of articles from 1937 was originally published in now defunct Seattle Star.
Combining fact with myth and legend, they present an entertaining glimpse into City Light's
early years and into the life of JD Ross, the Father of City Light.
City Light Has A Birthday
Seattle P-I, January 18, 1945
Oh, it was forty years ago -- please mark the date, kind reader -- when full of rain
and melting snow rolled on the lordly Cedar, and January skies were gray, a color
often mentioned, a babe first saw the light of day, dynamic and high-tensioned.
A child a city learned to love and treat with veneration, so soon to be a giant
of his metered generation! Unlike a lot of other tots in downy fleeces bedded,
he played with volts and kilowatts -- the lad was hydro-headed!
He dreamed of dams and power plants that run the household gadget, and when
the kid outgrew his pants they moved him to the Skagit. Where torrents swollen
by the rain engaged in awesome frolics, he grabbed white horses by the mane
and tamed them with hydraulics.
He turned out watts to run our trams and never once did fail 'em, and filled
the stream with power dams from Ruby to Newhalem. And so let's have a birthday
cake -- it only takes a minute -- they kind he'd like to have us make -- with
lots of currents in it.