Upper Peninsula Power Company Timeline

UPPCO and its roots can be traced back to 1884, or just five years after Edison’s incandescent bulb put the practical use of electricity at the fingertips of everyone. During that year, the Peninsula Electric Light and Power Company began operations in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.

Years later in 1902 that company’s interests were acquired by the Houghton County Electric Light Company. In 1947, UPPCO was incorporated through a merger of the Houghton County Electric Light Company, Copper District Power Company and the Iron Range Light and Power Company.

The following is a timeline of UPPCO’s past:

Peninsula Electric Light Company Ad

1884

The Peninsula Electric Light and Power Company (PELPC) begins operating using a general office in the Shelden-Dee Building in Houghton.

1890

Houghton Steam Station

The company begins operating its Electric Generation Plant, which later became known as the Houghton Steam Station. This plant was expanded in 1916. Today the building is commonly known as the Houghton Powerhouse.

1902

Truck of Houghton County Electric Light Company

Demand for electricity grew around Houghton, Keweenaw and Baraga counties, leading to PELPC’s interests being acquired by the Houghton County Electric Light Company (HCELC). Houghton County Electric Light furnished electricity to consumers in the Houghton, Hancock, Calumet and Torch Lake areas. A partner company of HCELC, the Houghton County Traction Company operated a street car system — powered by electricity of course — from Houghton up through mining communities in the Keweenaw Peninsula as far north as Mohawk. Because few people owned cars at the time and existing roads were primitive and in poor condition, the street car system filled a great need until ceasing operations in 1932 due to a variety of factors, including the Great Depression and the advent of the automobile.

1912

Iron Range Light and Power

The Iron Range Light and Power Company (IRLPC) begins operations. Based in Iron River, this utility was previously known as the Menominee Range Power and Development Company. Originally, the IRLPC used an old wood-fired boiler to power its generators and produce enough energy to handle lighting in Iron River, Stambaugh, Caspian and Gaastra.

1929

Copper District Power Company (CDPC)

The Copper District Power Company (CDPC) is organized based out of an office in downtown Ontonagon complete with a sales floor. During this year, CDPC began development of the Victoria Hydroelectric Project in Rockland. The project was completed a year later.

1931

Distribution systems at Painsdale, Trimountain, Baltic, Redredge, Freda and Beacon Hill from the Copper Range and Champion Copper companies are purchased by the CDPC. Additionally, the Copper District Power Company agrees to operate these facilities and furnish them with power.

Victoria Dam

1939

Demand for increased output from the Victoria Dam prompted the Copper District Power Company to begin construction of the Bond Falls reservoir in order to furnish the necessary additional water supply for Victoria hydroelectric generation.

1942

Houghton County Electric Light purchases the Prickett hydroelectric power project from a smaller electric company known as the Baraga County Light and Power Company.

1947

Houghton County Electric Light Houghton Office

UPPCO becomes incorporated on February 26 through the merger of the Houghton County Electric Light Company, Iron Range Light and Power Company and the Copper District Power Company. The newly-organized company consists of two separate divisions. UPPCO’s Northern Division covering Houghton, Baraga, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties was entirely self-sufficient with generation coming from company-owned hydroelectric facilities at Prickett and Victoria and the Houghton Steam Station. The company’s Iron River Division consisted of a distribution system covering Iron County serving five communities and adjacent rural areas through purchased power.

1950

UPPCO opens the first of its kind park at the Bond Falls flowage.

1953

Tree Farm

The company’s expansion further ramps up. UPPCO purchases the transmission and distribution systems from Cliffs Power and Light Company and the northern electric distribution system of Michigan Gas and Electric Company, both of which operated in counties east of UPPCO’s existing service area. These acquisitions added the Ishpeming and Munising areas, nearly doubling the size of UPPCO’s service territory. This year also saw UPPCO and the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company joining forces to form the Upper Peninsula Generating Company and sharing in the cost of building a $5.6 million, 22 megawatt coal-fired generating facility near Presque Isle Park in Marquette. UPPCO will operate the plant when it opens two years later. Eventually, Presque Isle would grow to become the largest generating facility in northern Michigan. UPPCO also plants the first of an eventual 700,000 tree plantings on its lands and joins the American Tree Farm System. Meanwhile, it is announced a new bridge will be built to connect Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas.

1956

During this year, UPPCO formed another unique partnership, contracting with Escanaba to operate a steam power plant the city would build and own. Once the plant became operational two years later, UPPCO expanded its own facilities by purchasing the distribution properties of the Upper Michigan Power and Light Company in Delta County.

1957

UPPCO begins construction of the Warden coal-fired, steam generation station in L’Anse. This same year the Mackinac Bridge opens to traffic.

1959

The Warden plant opens and a new lift bridge between Houghton and Hancock begins service.

Reddy Kilowatt Billboard

1962

The electric distribution facilities of Republic Township are purchased by UPPCO. With this addition, the company’s corporate family tree was complete. In the years since, additional generation facilities and hundreds of miles of electric transmission and distribution lines were put in place to meet increasing demands for energy.

1973

Desiring to add additional, quick service during outages and emergencies, a gas turbine was installed at the Portage Generating Station near South Range. A second unit was added in 1975, then relocated to Gladstone in 1987 to provide back-up power for customers in Delta County.

1981

The U.S. Navy announces it will proceed to build a new communication system (ELF) for submarines in UPPCO service territory.

1988

UPPCO purchases four hydroelectric generation facilities — Carp River, Hoist, AuTrain and McClure from a subsidiary of Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company.

Esky Hydro Station

1997

UPPCO completes the purchase of three hydro facilities on the Escanaba River from the Mead Corporation.

1998

UPPCO is purchased by a Wisconsin company.

2014

UPPCO is purchased and announces that all transactions have been completed to return the utility to its roots of being a standalone, independent Upper Peninsula-based energy provider.

This is the timeline behind how Upper Peninsula Power Company grew over the years. Since the Edison bulb, UPPCO has been providing through the dedication and hard work of past and present employees the energy needed to fuel progress in the Upper Peninsula for more than 130 years.