“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Great Barrington in Berkshire County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)

William Stanley Overlook

Housatonic River Walk

William Stanley Overlook Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Larry Gertner, October 2015
1. William Stanley Overlook Marker
William Stanley (1858-1916) devised an innovative electric distribution system using an alternating-current transformer. His laboratory was in Horace Day’s rambling, vacant rubberwear factory, the foundation of which is just visible on the opposite bank of the Housatonic River from where you stand. The evening of March 20, 1886, Stanley and his assistants L.L. Jenkins and Reginald Belafield demonstrated its practicality by powering lights in offices and stores on Main Street, Great Barrington. Stanley’s innovation allowed efficient, long-distance transmission of power. “Crude as the apparatus was, with all its faults of design and construction, it operated in a marvelously beautiful manner, and thoroughly satisfied me that I had a system of distribution which was capable of indefinitely extending the limits over which electricity could be publicly served,” Stanley said.

Simultaneous with Stanley’s endeavor, heiress Mary Sherwood Hopkins had an Edison direct-current system installed at her new Kellogg Terrace on South Main Street, and provided power to neighboring businesses. Thus the town witnessed the first skirmish
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in what became a major battle of the currents. Stanley’s mentor George Westinghouse and a-c ultimately prevailed. Stanley went on to establish a manufactory in Pittsfield in the 1890s which evolved into General Electric. Ironically a later innovation in power transformer production incorporated polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), reckless handling and disposal of which resulted in major contamination of the river. Stanley returned to Great Barrington in 1898 and built a factory on Church Street to make electric watt-hour meters and, later, all-metal, insulated Stanley bottles (which are still produced under the Aladdin brand today). This Stanley Overlook, a tribute to the community’s industrial heritage, was dedicated in June 2006.

“Some people are a little puzzled by the term of this invention. It was called an ‘induction coil’ rather than a ‘power transformer’. This may be because ‘transformer’ had not been a known term at the time. While it comes in all sizes and shapes, its most recognized form is the round garbage-can size device you see atop utility power poles. It solved a basic problem in the d-c, at the safe voltage of about 100 volts, could not be transmitted over long distances. So Stanley’s transformer allowed power to be generated at places like Niagara Falls and easily sent to places like New York City. This made low-cost electricity available world-wide
Insert - William Stanley portrait image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Larry Gertner, October 2015
2. Insert - William Stanley portrait
and opened the door to all the wonderful electrical devices we take for granted today.”
George C. Stanley, inventor’s grandson, 2005

Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Industry & Commerce. A significant historical date for this entry is March 20, 1886.
Location. 42° 11.75′ N, 73° 21.467′ W. Marker is in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in Berkshire County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of near Dresser Avenue and River Street. The marker is on the Housatonic River Walk. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Great Barrington MA 01230, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. W.E.B. Du Bois: Advocate for Rivers Here at Home (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Niagara Movement (about 600 feet away); W.E.B. Du Bois: Champion of Rivers Around the World (about 700 feet away); W.E.B. Du Bois Birthsite (approx. 0.2 miles away); Great Barrington Bi-Centennial (approx. 0.2 miles away); Laura Ingersoll Secord (approx. 0.2 miles away); First Congregational Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Alternating Current Electrification, 1886 (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Great Barrington.
Also see . . .
1. William Stanley Jr.: Pioneer of the transformer and alternating current (AC) distribution. "Edison Tech Center" entry. (Submitted on April 15, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.)
Insert - Stanley's laboratory image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Larry Gertner, October 2015
3. Insert - Stanley's laboratory

2. Welcome to Great Barrington's Housatonic River Walk. Thorough guide to both sections of the walk. (Submitted on May 7, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.) 
Insert - A Stanley transformer image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Larry Gertner, October 2015
4. Insert - A Stanley transformer
The Housatonic River at the overlook. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Larry Gertner, October 2015
5. The Housatonic River at the overlook.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 8, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 30, 2017, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 248 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 30, 2017, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Jun. 10, 2023