Seattle Lighting Department Records (Series IV), 1931-1958

Overview of the Collection

Seattle (Wash.). Lighting Dept.
Seattle Lighting Department Records (Series IV)
1931-1958 (inclusive)
0.4 cubic feet, (1 box)
Collection Number
Reports and specifications for City Light projects.
Seattle Municipal Archives
Seattle Municipal Archives
Office of the City Clerk
City of Seattle
PO Box 94728
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2062337807
Fax: 2063869025
Access Restrictions

Records are open to the public.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

City Light provides electricity and electrical and conservation services to its public and private customers. It is the largest public utility in the Pacific Northwest. Public responsibility for electrical energy dates back to 1890 with creation of the Department of Lighting and Water Works. The formulation of this public utility stemmed from fear of monopolization by private companies and was reinforced by the inadequacy of those companies during the Great Fire of 1889. Unable to gain access to private water, much of the business district was burned to the ground. Citizens responded eagerly to the idea of publicly owned water and electricity, which was later encouraged as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s.

In 1902, Seattle voters passed a bond issue to develop hydroelectric power on the Cedar River under the administration of the Water Department. This was the nation's first municipally owned hydroelectric project. Electricity from this development began to serve customers in Seattle in 1905. A City Charter amendment in 1910 created the Lighting Department, making it a full member of the City's Board of Public Works. Under the leadership of Superintendent James D. Ross, the department developed the Skagit River hydroelectric project which began supplying power in 1924 with the completion of the Gorge Dam.

Both public and private power was supplied to Seattle until 1951 when the City purchased the local private electrical power company, the Puget Sound Power and Light Company, making the Lighting Department the sole supplier. The Boundary Project in northeastern Washington began operations in 1967 and supplied over half of City Light's power generation.

The current name of the agency was adopted in 1978 when the department was reorganized. As a municipally owned public power system, Seattle City Light is governed by elected Seattle officials. Administrative authority rests with the Superintendent and an executive team that includes the department's Chief of Staff, Service and Energy Delivery Officer, Human Resources Officer, Power Supply and Environmental Affairs Officer, and Chief Financial Officer. City Light is responsible for electrical service and streetlight service, streetlight problems, and also conservation, both residential and commercial/industrial.

City Light provides low-cost, reliable, and environmentally responsible electric power to approximately 395,000 customers in Seattle and neighboring areas, including Burien, Lake Forest Park, Normandy Park, Renton, SeaTac, Shoreline, Tukwila, and unincorporated King County. It is the ninth-largest public power system in the United States and has the lowest rates among comparably sized cities in the United States.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Reports, applications, and project specifications from projects between 1933 and 1965. There are records concerning projects in the Skagit River, Pend Oreille, Shoreline, and Seattle areas. These records were originally acquired by the University of Washington prior to creation of the Seattle Municipal Archives, with this series identified at UW as Accession 2266-1.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item and date], Seattle Lighting Department Records (Series IV), Record Series 1200-04. Box [number], Folder [number]. Seattle Municipal Archives.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1 Diablo Power Project - Proposal, Specs & Contract 1934
1 2 Ruby Dam & Reservoir Project 1932 - 1933
1 3 Trial Load Analysis Stresses in Boundary Dam Pend Oreille 1957
1 4 Skagit Power Development 1929
1 5 Construction for Shoreline Substation 1957 - 1958
1 6 Diablo Power Plant Project Specifications 1933
1 7 Application for Skagit River Project 1933
1 8 Exhibits for Application for Skagit River Project 1927 - 1933
1 9 Installation of Hydro-Electric Machinery Diablo Power Plant 1931
1 10 Engineering Data Skagit River Floods 1933

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Electric utilities--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Hydroelectric power plants--Washington (State)