Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation

Los Angeles Sees the Light

In 1882, a new form of lighting was proposed for Los Angeles by C. L. Howland who represented the San Francisco based company of California Electric Light Company (now PG&E).  The LA City Council unanimously voted to enter into a contract with Howland to "illuminate the streets of the city with electric light."


(1883)* - The first electric light plant in Los Angeles was built in 1882 by C. L. Howland (Los Angeles Electric Company later Los Angeles Gas and Electric) on the corner of Alameda and Banning Streets.  


Historical Notes

Howland completed the City's first electric light plant in a just two months. The 30kw plant was located on the corner of Alameda and Banning Streets (See above photo).

The project was so successful that before the expiration of Howland’s two year contract, he and others formed the Los Angeles Electric Company, which besides serving streetlights, also supplied arc lights for commercial establishments.*




(ca. 1882)* - View of one of LA's first electric light poles located on the east side of North Main Street at Commercial Street at near right. The light was 150-ft. tall. A man can be seen standing on a platform half way up the street light mast. Click HERE and see more in Early L.A. Streetlights.  


Historical Notes

By 1889 Los Angeles Electric Company had 235 customers, and powered private lights on the outside of stores.  One year later, Los Angeles Electric Company opened its first alternating-current plant.

Los Angeles Electric Company would later become the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation and would survive until it was bought out by the DWP in 1936.*



(1924)^* - View of the nearly completed Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corp. main office building on the 800 block of Flower Street.  




(ca. 1925)^* - Street view of the LA Gas and Electric Corp. Office Building near the corner of 8th and Flower streets. The First English Lutheran Church of Los Angeles stands at the corner.  


Historical Notes

December 1936 - Just two months after Los Angeles received its first power from Boulder Dam, LA city voters approved a charter amendment authorizing the Bureau of Power and Light to issue revenue bonds in the amount of $46 million and purchase the electric system of Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation, the last remaining privately-owned system in LA.

One year later, 1937, the Bureau of Power and Light consolidated with the Bureau of Water Works and Supply and became the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).*



(ca. 1925)* - Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation's main office building, located on Flower Street between 8th and 9th streets. The company's sign is seen on the face of the building.  


LADWP Historic Archive

February 1937 – The municipal Bureau of Power and Light was launched upon what is destined to be the most brilliant chapter of its distinguished career of community service when, exactly at midnight on the last day of January, it took possession of the electric system formerly owned by the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation.

Consummation of the transfer brought to a successful close 25 years of negotiations led by E. F. Scattergood, Chief Electrical Engineer and General Manager of the Power Bureau, in which he was given the unwavering support of Dr. John R. Haynes, president of the board of Water and Power Commissioners, and the encouragement of the majority of Los Angeles citizens.

With the consolidation the municipal electric system became a $171,000,000 business serving 428,000 consumers and earning approximately $25,000,000 annually.

Moving swiftly and efficiently following public approval at the December 8 special election of the proposed purchase, Department executives concluded the complex details incident to the acquisition 30 days earlier than the date that had been optimistically forecast. The reduction of one month in the estimated time brought to the Department $250,000 in additional revenue.

Those more directly responsible for the prompt settlement of legal, engineering and financial aspects of the transaction, in addition to Mr. Scattergood and Dr. Haynes were: Commissioners Watt L. Moreland, Arthur J. Mullen, Alfred Lushing and Franklin D. Howell; S. B. Robinson, chief assistant city attorney for Water and Power, Mark A. Hall and Francis H. Lindley, deputy city attorneys; H. C. Gardett, engineer of design and construction; T. A. Panter, electrical engineer in charge of operations; Clyde Errett, assistant controller. Effective cooperation of City Council members, the city attorney and the city controller has been gratefully acknowledged by the Department.

Following a series of conferences at New York, where open discussion of all phases of the $47,000,000 bond issue with which the purchase was financed was had with representative investment houses, sealed competitive bids for the issue were received by the Board of Water and Power Commissioners.

On January 19 the Board unanimously accepted the bid of Brown Harriman and Company and associates, which provided the most favorable terms to the Department both as to money cost and redemption cost. Careful analysis showed the maximum cost which, on account of favorable redemption features, many be materially lessened, would amount to 3.5101 per cent. This is the lowest interest rate ever secured for Power Bureau bonds.

Issued on a 40-year basis, the bonds are of two types $23,500,000 being classed as Series A, due serially from 1938 to 1977, the remaining $23,500,000 of the issue being designated as Series B, due in 1977. The entire issue is payable, both as to principal and interest, solely out of the Power Revenue Fund.

Bond experts declared the high credit rating of the Power Bureau was emphatically shown by the speed with which the bonds sold, all of Series B and practically all of Series A having been disposed of by noon of the day following acceptance by the Water and Power Board of the Brown Harriman bid.

With financing arrangements completed, the next major step was actual acceptance of deeds to the private utility’s electric holdings, following arrival in Los Angeles through the Federal Reserve Bank of the $47,000,000 check issued in payment for the bonds. Bound in a voluminous document, the deeds were presented to the Board by Mr. Scattergood at a special meeting held at 7 am January 29, 1937.

Immediately thereafter a check for $46,340,000, the agreed purchase price authorized by the voters of the city, was deposited in escrow with all collateral documents.

This was the largest financial transaction ever made in the West, it was reported

The balance of $660,000 remaining from the bond issue proceeds is to be used for interconnecting the two systems.

Under the direction of H. C. Gardett, engineer of design and construction, work already has started at Station “F”. Located at 1520 Velasco Street, it is the terminus of the 110,000 volt transmission line from the Seal Beach steam generating plant and formerly was known as Eastside Receiving Station.

A new switch rack, for which steel already has been ordered, will provide the single high tension tie between the two systems. Proximity of the loop line between Stations “A” and “B” to Station “F” requires only a few tower installations to effect the transmission line tie. With installation of necessary transformers the revised loop line hookup will consist of a 110,000 volt connection between “A” and “F” and a 132,000 volt connection between “F” and “B”.

First interconnection of the distributing system will be the 34,000 volt, two-circuit line between Power Bureau Distributing Station 5 and the former private Station 16, both of which are in the eastside commercial and industrial district. Other interconnections are planned in order to provide flexibility of operation and assure highest reliability of service to Los Angeles electric consumers.

A gain of 40 per cent in kilowatt-hour output for the first week of combined system operation, compared with the last week of Power Bureau original system output, was reported by T. A. Panter, engineer of operation. Compared with the corresponding week of 1936 the gain amounted to the amazing figure of 77 per cent. This reflects the addition of consumers formerly served by the Corporation and generally increased use of electricity in Los Angeles.

While financing arrangements were still being negotiated the Commercial Division of the Department began the voluminous task of transferring approximately 185,000 account records and other commercial data. Working night and day in three shifts, 170 extra clerks and hundreds of regular employees started the job on New Year’s Day. On February 2 the first electric bills to former consumers of the private utility were mailed out, swelling the daily mailing of bills for municipal electric and water service to the impressive total of 30,000, it was reported by Homer C. White commercial director.

The volume of work handled by the Commercial Division included cutting new addressograph stencils, typing consumers’ service record cards and establishing meter read sheets showing the January read. Each of the 185,000 accounts had to be covered in all the phases of the work. Arrangements were made to provide meals in the Department Cafeteria after regular working hours for the special crews. Those going off shift in the late evening or early morning hours were provided with transportation to their homes.

Along with physical properties the Power Bureau gained approximately 800 men and women who had been engaged in work directly relating to the private electric system. They were given civil service status comparable with their former duties, in accordance with a charter amendment approved by the voters.

The largest group, numbering approximately 475, was assigned to the Operating Division. Other assignments were: Design and Construction Division, 127; Commercial, 120; General Plant, 45; Business Agent 22; Accounting, 5.**



(1920s)*^ - Two men are standing next to an early model car in front of the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Co. Building located at 645 S. Hill Street.  




(1920s)*^ - View of two men sitting in a Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation service truck in front of the company's office building. The lettering on the side of the vehicle reads: "Emergency Vehicle No. 1 - 645 South Hill Street".  




(1927)* - Front view of Distribution Station No. 42 located at 428 South Hope Street as it appeared in 1927 when it was still operated by LA Gas and Electric Corporation. Click HERE to see more in Early Power Distribution Stations  




(1930s)* - View of Distribution Station No. 42 - 428 South Hope Street with the LA Central Library in the background. This station was built by LA Gas and Electric Co. and purchased by the Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light in 1937.  


Historical Notes

In 1937 the Bureau of Power and Light completed the purchase of Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation. That same year the Bureau of Power and Light consolidated with the Bureau of Water Works and Supply and became the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP). Click HERE to see Name Change Chronology of DWP.

In 1939, Southern California Edison (SCE) and DWP completed negotiations on the division of territory between the two utilities. SCE also swapped the remainder of its Los Angeles distribution system for DWP facilities outside the city limits (formerly owned by Los Angeles Gas and Electric). Click HERE to see more in First Electricity in Los Angeles.



(1937)^^ - “Gas: The Modern Fuel”: The Los Angeles Gas and Electric showroom at night. The company was purchased by the city and merged with the Los Angeles Bureau of of Power and LIght (DWP) shortly after this photo was taken.  


Historical Notes

In 1937, the Gas component of Los Angeles Gas and Electric was sold to what is now Southern California Gas Company.*^


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History of Water and Electricity in Los Angeles




More Historical Early Views



Newest Additions



Early LA Buildings and City Views


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References and Credits

* DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

**LADWP Historic Archive

^^LosAnglesPast.com - library.ca.gov

^*California State Library Image Archive

*^Collectors.Weekly.com: Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation



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