The Division Manager for Pennsylvania Power & Light Inc. (PP&L) when Lake Wallenpaupack was created was William C. Anderson.
HAWLEY - The Division Manager for Pennsylvania Power & Light Inc. (PP&L) when Lake Wallenpaupack was created was William C. Anderson. He was also the first president and one of the founders of the Hawley Chamber of Commerce, which was organized in 1926, the year the “Big Lake” was finished.
Wonder of the age
William Conklin Anderson was born September 25, 1872 in New York City, to Robert S. Anderson and Mary (Way) Anderson.
Following his studies at Columbia Grammar School in New York, he attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., receiving a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1894. While in college he became the first editor in chief of the student newspaper, The Brown and White.
Harnessing electric power was still an amazing innovation of that age. Hawley, Pa., the small but booming industrial town where he would one day live and contribute, would not be electrified until 1897. Powered by the rushing falls, Paupack Electric Company, located on Welwood Avenue (Route 6) would in another quarter century by eclipsed by a major hydroelectric venture on the Wallenpaupack. Serious talk of that project surfaced in 1899.
Anderson followed a career in public utilities. He worked in various capacities for gas or electric companies over the next several years, in New York City, Long Branch, NJ, Norristown, Pa., Westchester, NY and a sales position for an instrument company in Paris.
By 1909 he was back in Pennsylvania, joining with Wyoming Valley Gas & Electric Company, which changed its name to Luzerne County Gas & Electric Company. He was credited with building and developing the firm. Their offices were first in Plymouth; in 1912 they moved to a new building in Kingston.
An article about the company in the American Gas Light Journal in November 1909, added, “Mr. Anderson is to be congratulated over the harmony that he has brought out of the disorder which has occasionally manifested…”
In 1912 he was named treasurer of the Pennsylvania Electric Association.
He resigned in January 1914, and was feted to a surprise testimonial at the Wellington Hotel, Wilkes-Barre.
During the 1st World War he was assigned with the National Electric Association of New York City. His role was that of Statistical Secretary.
P.P. & L.
Meanwhile big plans for electric generation were forging ahead in the Hawley, Pa. area.
In 1903, a group of Philadelphia investors, who had formed the Pike Water Power Company, announced their interest in building a huge lake encompassing 5,522 acres. Colonel Louis Arthur Watres, whose family would later establish Lacawac Sanctuary, also had thoughts of forming a lake at Wallenpaupack for electrical generation.
A prominent lawyer and Scranton businessman, Col. Watres joined with other partners in 1910-1911 on the project. They purchased most of land in Wayne and Pike counties needed for the lake. They formed two companies, the Paupack Power Company and the Wallenpaupack Power Company. These were merged to form the Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey Power Company.
They hoped to sell either the project or the electricity to run a proposed electric railroad from Allentown to Scranton. The railroad plan fell through, and the investors were left with a $25 million mortgage.
In 1912, the competing company, Pike Water Power Company, was dissolved by court order, for failure to pursue their project within two years.
On Dec. 21, 1922, the Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey Power Company applied for a permit to construct the Wallenpaupack project. Only 25 days later, another group, the Hercules Power Company, had applied for a permit as well to dam the Wallenpaupack River. But it was too late. Pennsylvania Power and Light Company (P.P.&L.) purchased the Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey Power Company, which proceeded with the plan.
P.P.&L.’s subsidiary, Phoenix Utility Company, had charge of the massive construction project that was just starting. Hundreds of jobs were being created and the area was about to see a new chapter in its story begin.
The man put in charge of this as Division Manager was William C. Anderson. He arrived in Hawley in September 1923.
His office was set up that month in the Murray Building, at 316 Main Avenue (most recently, the site of Gina’s Auction).
In the early 1930’s, P.P.&L. moved the office to 519 Church Street (today, Black Bear Conservatory).
The Wayne County Citizen, in its September 18 edition, stated, “The new lake to be created above the Wilsonville Falls is to be known as Lake Wallenpaupack, thus permanently placing that delightful Indian name on our maps, which means ‘sluggish water.’”
Phoenix Utility Company, which was a subsidiary of P.P. & L. assigned to the actual construction, set up offices at the Reafler Hotel, what is today an apartment building on Church Street near the Baptist Church.
Construction began in early 1924. A force of 2,700 men worked nearly two years. A concrete dam, 1,280 feet long by 70 feet high had to be built; an 80,000 h.p. hydroelectric plant was to be erected at Kimbles. A wooden flume line, three and a half miles long, had to be built, connecting the two. A worker’s village was put up at Kimbles.
Finally, in 1926, the dam gates were closed and the lake began to fill and soon, turbines would be creating electric power. A new age was underway.
Chamber of Commerce
Businessmen in the region were acute to the possibilities; since the project was first floated over 25 years before, imagination was whirling about the boom to business and tourism.
P.P. & L. also backed the expectation that the new power source would attract new industries to the region. P.P. & L. was pledged to work hand in hand with the newly formed Hawley Chamber of Commerce.
The Commerce had its first meeting, March 23, 1926 at Maennerchor Hall, 522 Spring St., Hawley (today, Eagle Apartments). Members appointed a committee to complete the process.
A dinner meeting was held Wednesday evening, April 7, 1926 at the borough hall. (This must have been the Odd Fellows Hall at Main Avenue & River Street. The borough offices were downstairs on the far left. On the second floor there was a large meeting room, the scene for many functions over the years.)
About 80 charter members were present. William C. Anderson was elected as president; ; Albert H. Crockenberg, first vice-president; Harry T. Atkinson, second vice -president; Albert H. Lauderburn, treasurer.
Another large banquet was hosted by the Chamber at the Maennerchor Hall on July 1. P.P. & L. officials addressed the body about the high expectations for the region with the creation of Lake Wallenpaupack. About five miles of shoreline were being set aside as a summer colony for vacationing P. P. & L. employees. This was seen as precursor to the lake becoming “an immense summer resort that will rank among the finest vacationing spots in the United States,” said John R. Wise, operating manager for the company. Anderson served as toastmaster, and urged the people of Hawley “to get together and make this community a better one.”
The newly formed chamber had many ambitious plans, and enthusiasm ran high. These included selling shares to build a first class hotel downtown, coordinating the centennial of Hawley Borough in 1927, and when Adelbert Bingham donated land for a town park in 1929, making plans for Bingham Park. The hotel is known today as The Settlers Inn. The centennial celebration was a grand, week-long affair with three parades. The park became the centerpiece of town, dominated by its iconic bandstand.
Anderson was the general sales manager for the community hotel project. He also made the announcement at a chamber meeting, about the donation of land for the new park.
“He is an enthusiastic worker for everything that may tend to better conditions in this section, and has unselfishly devoted considerable of his time and labor to making the centennial celebration a success,” wrote Michael J. McAndrew, in his 1927 history of Hawley.
Anderson served as chamber president, 1926- 1928. He was followed by Dr. Arno C. Voigt, a Hawley physician.
Home in Hawley
William and Carrie Anderson were living at 101 Falls Avenue, at the time of the 1925 Hawley directory. They moved to 215 Penn Avenue before 1927, where they rented a house (corner of Penn and River).
They had two children, a son, Robert D., who in 1927 was a student at Antioch College in Ohio, and a daughter, Mrs. William A. Miller of Red Bank, NJ.
Hawley directories for 1931 and 1935 listed him as the P.P. & L. manager at Hawley.
William C. Anderson was 68 when he died, June 23, 1941. He was laid to rest in Bronx, NY.
The building of P.P. &L.’s hydroelectric project brought a new wave of promise and excitement, as well as changes to navigate. William C. Anderson was one among many who dared to dream and put feet to their ideas.
For those hopeful for economic benefit for the area, there would be some delay, that could not be foreseen in the age of the “Roaring Twenties.”
Hawley’s population was about 2,400 at that time, nearly a thousand more than today. Bustling with manufacturing, the community was anticipating a new age of tourism. This would not be fully realized, however, until after the coming Great Depression and then the 2nd World War, when the “Lake Region” would come into its own.
Hawley Chamber of Commerce later expanded as the Hawley /Lake Wallenpaupack Chamber of Commerce. In 2014, the chamber joined with the Wayne County and Southern Wayne Regional chambers, in forming the Chamber of the Northern Poconos. They still maintain an office, however, just outside Hawley in view of Lake Wallenpaupack.
Brookfield Renewable took over ownership of what had been P.P.&L.’s lake and power plant, in 2016.
The legacy of the Big Lake continues.
History of Hawley, Pa. (1927) by Michael J. McAndrew
Early trade journals (Google books)
Wallenpaupack Historical Society archives