Electricity Arrived in Kennebunkport on the Trolley

The majority of Kennebunkport voters were reluctant to pay taxes for niceties like electricity around the turn of the 20th Century. Nobody expected power lines to ever extend to the rural parts of town and electricity was probably just a passing fad, anyway. Business owners in the village and summer residents at Cape Arundel were the only ones who stood to benefit from such extravagance, but everyone would be expected to pay.
The Town of Kennebunk had had the foresight to purchase the bankrupt shoe manufactury at the corner of Main St and Storer St. for an Electric Light Plant way back in 1893, but by then Kennebunkport was still a decade shy of town electricity.
It finally took the innovators of the Sanford to Cape Porpoise trolley line to spark progress and once it started there was no stopping it. A group of men including Sanford Mill owners, the Goodalls, devised an inexpensive way to transport coal to the Sanford Mills. They built an entertainment “Casino” on Bickford Island Cape Porpoise to entice people to pay to get there on the trolley. The coal transport from Cape Porpoise Harbor where schooners could cheaply deliver cargos of coal, to Sanford, where the mills consumed the coal, was self-supporting, thanks to the pleasure-seeking passengers.
To extend the trolley line from Town House to the bridge in Dock Square electricity had to be run on poles along the route. George H. Emery petitioned the town of Kennebunk to build a coal-fired, steam-generating power plant on Doane’s Wharf in Lower Village to provide electricity to the trolleys that might cross the bridge from Dock Square. The new trolley line opened July 4, 1900, but the 1897 bridge to Lower Village had not been built to support the weight of the trolleys. At the bridge, the pole power was shifted to the other side of the car and the seats were flipped. The trolley returned to the Town House without having to spin the car around.
The Village Improvement Society raised money to have electric streetlights in Kennebunkport Village. They were supplied by electricity from George H. Emery’s Kennebunk Electric Company and first lit the evening of June 25, 1901. Ocean Ave, called River Road at the time, was lit by the Village Improvement Society the following year but voters didn’t approve the $1,000 a year for the Kennebunk Electric Company to keep the lights on each summer until 1903.
George H. Emery, who had founded the Kennebunk Electric Company in Lower Village, moved into the house of his deceased father-in-law, Benjamin Hoff in 1904. The South Street Kennebunkport house was one of the oldest houses in town having been built by Gideon Walker in 1745. It was also the first house in Kennebunkport Village to be wired for electric lights. The Nott House was wired the following year.

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