History of Wisconsin Public Service In Wausau


History of Wisconsin Public Service in Wausau

We would like to thank that staff and retirees of Wisconsin Public Service for providing the following content for this exhibit.


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1889 - First electric generator (15kw) in Wausau.

This 1929 photograph shows the Wausau West Hydroelectric plant silhouetted against skies lit by the Northern Lights.

Three vertical shaft turbines at the Wausau West
Hydro Plant.

Electric utility development in Wausau had its beginning with Wausau Electric Light and Power Company in 1883 and expanded to include the Wausau Electric Light Company in 1889.

The first light in Wausau was furnished by a dynamo installed in 1883 at what was Leahy and Beebe Lumber Mill.  The first commercial light occurred in 1885 when Heinemann Brothers store was lighted by forty 20-candlepower lamps.

In 1906, the Wausau Street Railroad Company was organized and served the City of Wausau and vicinity with street railway service.  Railroad management was convinced that joint ownership of the electric and railroad companies would increase both efficiency and profits.  In 1908, the railroad acquired the electric utility and nine years later they changed the name to Wisconisn Valley Electric Copmany.  This was the beginning of a new era in the state's electric industry.  Through the years, Valley Electric expanded to include Merrill, Mosinee, Stevens Point, Tomahawk, Antigo, Rhinelander, Waupaca,Minocqua and Eagle River.

In 1933, Wisocnsin Valley Electric merged with Wisconsin Public Service Corporation.  This merger created the present corporation serving 17 counties in northeastern Wisconsin and Menominee County in Michigan.


The Wausau Hydroelectric Historic District provides a living example of the founding father’s push for power. Commissioned by the Wisconsin Valley Electric Company, the Wausau West hydroelectric plant and dam were constructed in the west channel of the Wisconsin River in 1920-21. It was built with a force of 200 men at a cost of $1 million, and began service on March 19, 1921.
The powerhouse remains generally as it was constructed, including the original two 1,800-kilowatt GE generating units, and a third that was added in 1924. The original operating controls were removed in 1983, when the plant became fully automated out of the Wisconsin Public Service central office in Green Bay.
The site of the Ewing dam built in 1921. Today it is known as the Wausau West Hydro and Electric Plant and Dam.
Wausau West and East Hydro Plants in Downtown Wausau in 1925.
Originally three dams were built on the site that would become the city of Wausau. The Wausau Project dam is the only one still existing that utilizes the original waterpower sites, while the other two dams were removed in the late 1950s.
International whitewater racing in downtown Wausau. Wisconsin Public Service opens guard locks on the Wisconsin River East channel to flood the slalom course for kayak and canoe competition which began in 1975.
2011-The kayak course on the Wisconsin River near Wausau Hydro was built.


Wisconsin Public Service Offices and Service Center

1941 - Beginning construction on Jefferson Street

1941 - Continued construction on the corner of Fourth and Jefferson.  This downtown office was constructed at a cost of $100,000.

January 1942 - Exterior view of the new Public Service office building, showing ultra-modern brilliant display lighting which attracted considerable attention.

January 1941 - Appliances sales and customer service area. On December 31, 1976, Public Service went out of the appliance business.

In 1972 the Wausau Service Center at 17th and Sherman was built, headquarters for the Wausau electric system operation and shops.  In 1978, the downtown office closed, and the Customer Service Center was added at this location.



Weston Power Plants

Weston 1

Weston site prior to the start of construction of the plant in 1952.  Taken from the east side of the Wisconsin River

August 1952 - Groundbreaking for Weston 1.  WPS and local officials.  Reddy Kilowatt helps celebrate.

December 1953 Weston 1 Construction


60,000-Kilowatt Turbine Generator.  Ed Hahn, WPS Turbine Operator.

Taken from the west shore of the Wisconsin River in 1955.  Weston 1 began operation in December 1954 with a total capacity of 60,000 kilowatts.

Weston 1 Turn-on and Dedication Ceremony

December 1954 control room during turn-on ceremony.

June 1955 - WPS andl Local dignitaries enjoy dinner and a tour.

June 1955 WPS and local officials dedicate Weston 1 with a cake-cutting ceremony.

Guests were transported from Hotel Wausau to the dedication ceremony at the plant.


Weston 2

Turn-on ceremony on November 1, 1960.  "Spike" Waldinger, a Wausau area employee of WPS, switches on the plant during the official turn-on ceremony.

Weston 2 Open House - 1961

June 1961 - Weston 1 and 2 Taken for the Weston Plant open house.  Total capacity 135,000 kilowatts.

1972 - Electrostatic precipitators were added to the Weston 1 and 2 plants.

Weston 3

Construction - 1980

1982 Open house within the plant.

1982 Open house showing precipitators in background.

1989 plant looking west.

Control room employees Ed Hahn and Rod Mommaerts

Summer 2003 - Aerial view with Weston 1 and 2 in background.   Includes Weston 31 and 32 (Gas Combustion Turbines)


Modern Electric Applicances Showcased

Modern Electric Appliances Showcased
In 1933, Wisconsin Valley Electric merged with Wisconsin Public Service to create WPS Corporation.

1930s - Display aimed to make farming easier, promoting the use of electric products.

Early Wisconsin Valley Electric display in Wausau promoting light bulbs.  The campaign slogan was "fill the Empty Sockets."

1930 - Window display for a deluxe soft balloon roll wringer and washer.

Early Wisconsin Public Service sales staff went from town to town promoting labor-saving electric products.

An early Wisconsin Valley Electric window display featuring "Maggie & Joggs," promoting a new washer-dryer.

1938 - WSAU Radio and Wisconsin Public Service played to packed houses at "cooking school." Audiences of 1,500 on each of the three days filled a Wausau theater


Tolleys & Buses

1911 - America's first trackless trolley system, placed in operation in Merrill

1928 - Rothschild Trolleycar Barns

Trolley service started in Wausau in 1907.  Pictured here is January of 1940, passengers jammed about the street car for the final 5-cent ride.

Wausau and Wisconsin Public Service officials board a new Ford coach for a trial run.  Ten buses went into operation January 11, 1940.

The Public Service bus drivers.

New WPS coaches are very popular.  In 1951, Wisconsin Public Service sold the bus system to Wausau Transit Lines.

January 10, 1940 - Transportation Queen for the day, Norma Schmidt, and her four ladies in waiting:  Joan Kickbusch, Enid Christian, Beverly Frank and Lena Kickbusch.  All were Wausau high school students, chosen to reign over the celebration going from trolleys to buses. 

The Queen and her court, Wausau and Public Service officials take the last official street car ride.

Queen Norma Schmidt, Wausau High School, crashes a bottle of milk over the wheel of the new coach.  Allen Alrams, Wausau Chamber President, and Minor Fredrickson, WPS Assistant Manager, look on.