Skagit Project Scrapbooks, 1929-1952

Overview of the Collection

Seattle City Light; Seattle City Light
Skagit Project Scrapbooks
1929-1952 (inclusive)
1936-1948 (bulk)
2 volumes
Collection Number
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. By the early 21st century, approximately ten percent of City Light's income came from the sale of surplus energy to customers in the Northwest and Southwest with the remainder of City Light's financial support coming from customer revenue.

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

These scrapbooks are a collection of newspaper clippings from daily newspapers, as well as engineering and construction journals, regarding the Skagit River dam projects. They were compiled by William B. Wolfendale, the principal engineer for City Light on the dam projects. The articles are primarily about construction progress and issues, including some technical articles. Repeated topics include: Diablo Dam, Ross Dam, dam designer John Savage, Yangtze River dam, and Wolfendale's retirement in 1948. The bulk of the clippings date from 1936-1948. In addition to newspaper clippings there are a few pages of correspondence, as well as some technical reports regarding refrigeration units and concrete mixes.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item and date], Skagit Project Scrapbooks, Record Series 1208-05 Box [number], Folder [number]. Seattle Municipal Archives.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Diablo Dam (Wash.)

Personal Names

  • Savage, John
  • Wolfendale, William B.

Corporate Names

  • Seattle City Light

Geographical Names

  • Ross Dam (Wash.)
  • Seattle (Wash.)