Cataract Power Company

(1896)

Electricity was the key driving force behind Hamilton’s second Industrial Revolution. The Cataract Power Company pioneered the supply of electricity to industry and individuals in the city.

This privately owned utility was founded by local entrepreneur John Patterson and a number of his wealthy associates, known collectively as the “Five Johns.” Hamilton proudly billed itself as Canada’s premier “electric city.”

From the mid-1890s onwards, a section of this building served as the company’s Victoria Avenue steam-generating station. In 1898, Cataract constructed a 35-mile power transmission line from its new DeCew Falls Generating Station near St. Catharines and converted this building into an electrical sub-station.

Cataract sold much of its power to industrial customers. Hamilton’s electrical capacity attracted such large American companies as International Harvester, Oliver Chilled Plow and Standard Underground Cable. The company also bought up electrical railway systems and other light and power companies throughout the region. It competed with the publicly owned Hamilton Hydro for a number of years, before finally coming under public ownership in 1930.

The street façade of this building is actually made up of three adjoining brick masonry structures that were built in stages from 1899 to 1907. The building is most notable for its decorative treatment. Typical late-Victorian-era features include brick corbelling below the roof line, and round or segmental arches above the windows and doors.