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Cleveland Public Power

Updated on August 16, 2019
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Richard L Zimmerman is an Architectural and Human Factors Expert who consults re: building codes, accessibility, and construction defects.

Cleveland Public Power's Primary Facility

Cleveland Public Power, Marginal Road
Cleveland Public Power, Marginal Road | Source

Early Power Struggles

Cleveland has been home to a number of firsts in power generation — Clevelander Charles Brush’s 1876 invention of an early generator, his development of the arc lamp two years later, and the installation of those arc lamps for city street lighting in 1879.

Capitalizing on those achievements, in 1881 Brush founded the Brush Electric Light & Power Company. A decade later, he merged his company with the Cleveland Electric Light Co. (which had been using his rival inventor Edison’s incandescent lamps) to form the Cleveland General Electric Co. By 1894, that company took on the new moniker of The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI).

4600 North Marginal Road, Cleveland, Ohio:
4600 N Marginal Rd, Cleveland, OH 44114, USA

get directions

Access the whale wall mural by taking East 55th Street to the North Marginal Road, then head west.

Power Rivalry

CEI grew strongly in its early years. It was the threat of monopolistic policies by CEI that caused Cleveland Mayor Tom Johnson in 1907 to create the Municipal Light Company, known locally as Muny Light. As a publicly owned power generation and distribution utility, Muny Light was intended to offer a public alternative to — and a price-and-service check on — the (presumably) potentially rapacious CEI. Muny Light and CEI remained staunch and obstreperous rivals throughout three-quarters of a century; it wasn’t until about 1980 that they finally reached a somewhat tolerant relationship of peaceful coexistence and market sharing.

Perry Nuclear Power Plant, about 45 min. east of Cleveland
Perry Nuclear Power Plant, about 45 min. east of Cleveland | Source

Mayor Johnson's Vision Realized

Muny Light had been initially cobbled together from one generating plant acquired upon annexation of the Village of South Brooklyn and another acquired upon annexation of the Village of Collinwood. It was not until 1914 that Mayor Johnson’s vision of a significant central generating plant was realized.

That plant was the East 53rd St. Central Generating Station. At its completion, it was the nation’s largest municipal power plant, with a generating capacity of 24,000 kilowatts. Subsequent upgrades brought its capacity to 50,000 kW by 1925. With this growth of Muny Light, electricity costs for Clevelanders were driven to the lowest rates in the country.

The Powerhouse in Cleveland's Flats District, one of the city's oldest generation plants.
The Powerhouse in Cleveland's Flats District, one of the city's oldest generation plants. | Source

Name Change

In 1983, Muny Light took on its current name of Cleveland Public Power (CPP). It continues to offer Cleveland residents and businesses a cost-effective alternative to private power purchasing, and is primarily concentrated in the city's central core.

Artist Robert Wyland, renowned for his more than 100 large murals of whales around the world (he calls them ‘Whaling Walls’), created the scene that unfolds across the CPP facility. That scene, Whaling Wall #75, is titled “Song of the Whales” and measures 300 feet wide by 108 feet high. It was dedicated by Cleveland's then-Mayor Michael White in October of 1997.


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