Monday, February 25, 2013

Brick streets, hitching posts and bright lights

Chariton, by 1903 --- 110 years ago --- was modestly notorious among its peer cities for two reasons: None of our streets were paved and the town lacked a muncipal water system. It would take a major fire during January of 1904 to convince residents that a supply of water sufficient to prevent the square from burning down would be useful. But paving began during the late summer and early fall of 1903 after merchants and shoppers alike finally tired to the sea of mud that the square turned into after heavy rains and during spring thaws.

The photo here, which I've used before, was taken after paving had advanced more than half way from north to south on the west side of the square during 1903.

Other amenities accompanied all those new bricks, so The Chariton Patriot of Nov. 12, 1903, was able to report on the "New Hitching Posts" ---

"The new iron hitch posts and chains have been placed along the south side of the court house square, and the farmers hitched their horses thereto Saturday for the first time. The posts are being placed on the other sides of the square but it will take several days for the cement to dry. This will be a great improvement over the old way of hitching before the paving was done, when in rainy weather the horses often had to stand knee deep in water and mud and the farmers almost needed flat boats to get to their conveyances."

In addition to figuring out how to pay for these improvements, City Council now found that it had other issues to address. On the 7th of January, 1904, The Patriot reported that on the previous Monday night, "the council passed an ordinance to prevent the feeding of horses or other stock on the public square, under penalty of a fine not exceeding $10 or imprisonment in jail not more than 30 days."

Chariton did have a municipal light plant by 1903, located along the west side of what now is Yocum Park with much of the park area filled by a pond to supply water for steam generating equipment. That meant that, in addition to being paved, the square now could be brightly lighted --- although exactly how to do that involved experimentation. The Patriot of Dec. 8, 1904, reported as follows:

"An experiment is being made in placing the arc lights about the square. A large 30-foot pole has been placed at the northeast corner of the square; from this a twenty-foot steel arm projects, from which is suspended a two thousand candle power arc light. The braces are of solid steel; the guy wire which supports the light is insulated in a steel tubing. As it is now the lights are suspended on wires reaching diagonally from one corner building to another, and the constant swinging motion occasioned by wind wears the wire, the cable and guy ropes break and the lamps fall. If the experiment proves satisfactory, eight lights will be placed about the square instead of four, as at present --- one at each corner and one at each alley. Each corner post will have a twenty-foot arm and the alley posts, fourteen-foot arms, which will bring the lights all in perfect alignment."

Also during December, the City Council set a policy for monitoring --- and collecting for --- electricity used.

The Patriot also reported on Dec. 8 that, "the electric light committee was instructed to place meters on all places where more than three lights are used. The meter rate will be reduced to 10 cents per 1,000 watts after January 1, 1905. All meters will be sold to parties using the same at actual cost to the city, and where parties do not care to buy them they will be charged a rental of 25 cents per month."

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