“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Fredericksburg, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Hydroelectricity Brings Changes to Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg: Timeless.

Hydroelectricity Brings Changes to Fredericksburg Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bernard Fisher, June 19, 2016
1. Hydroelectricity Brings Changes to Fredericksburg Marker
Inscription.  Desperate for economic growth, following the Civil War, Fredericksburg embraced the technological innovation of hydroelectricity. In 1887, a local firm converted an old grist mill near the Falmouth Bridge to an electric generating plant. In 1901, the local government built its own hydroelectric facility, calling it the City Electric Light Works.

The municipal power plant remained in operation until 1919. lts output, however, was direct current (DC), which has a limited range. The more substantial Embrey Power Station, constructed in 1910, generated alternating current (AC), which can be transmitted greater distances. It provided electric power well beyond the city limits.

Electrification had a profound impact on the area’s industrial development. Factories could be removed from places susceptible to river flooding and built closet to rail connections and roadways. The Embrey Plant closed in the 1960s, when a nuclear plant became operational on the North Anna River.

Capt. McCracken, Chairman of the Light Committee, reported three bids for the erection and installation of
River Heritage Trail image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bernard Fisher, June 19, 2016
2. River Heritage Trail
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an Electric Light Plant for lighting the streets of the city (City Council meeting of June 15, 1900).

The transition from hydromechanical power to hydroelectricity is evident in this 1909 photo of the concrete Embry Dam being constructed across the Rappahannock River. The Fredericksburg Water Power Company’s stone and timber dam, which can be seen just upstream, would be covered by the new reservoir.

The City Electric Light Works, whose wheel pit is visible in front of you, powered city lights for 18 years. The Embry Power Station, to your left front, remained operational for 50 years. (Image courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources)

In 2004, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demolished the 1910 Embry Dam and the 1854 Fredericksburg Water Power Co. dam. Removal of this industrial infrastructure provides significant environmental benefits to Virginia fisheries.
Erected by Fredericksburg Economic Development and Tourism Office.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceMan-Made FeaturesWaterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Virginia, Fredericksburg: Timeless. series list. A significant historical date for this entry is June 15, 1887.
Location. 38° 18.73′ N, 77° 27.923′ 
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W. Marker is in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Caroline Street and Ford Street, on the left when traveling west. Located along the River Heritage Trail. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Fredericksburg VA 22401, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Germania Mill: Recovering from the Civil War (here, next to this marker); A Walking Tour of Fredericksburg’s Historic Old Mill District (within shouting distance of this marker); Rappahannock River Heritage Trail (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Water Powered Industries (about 700 feet away); French John's Wharf (approx. ¼ mile away); Carl's (approx. ¼ mile away); A Canal Defines Its Neighborhood (approx. ¼ mile away); Elmhurst (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fredericksburg.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 21, 2020. It was originally submitted on June 20, 2016, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 271 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on June 20, 2016, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.

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Jun. 29, 2022