The First Utility Pole in Los Angeles

Plaque marking the location of the first utility pole in Los Angeles

The First Utility Pole in Los Angeles

Everything has to start somewhere. And this site, location of the first utility pole in Los Angeles, marks the beginnings of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

Way back on March 30, 1916, the very first utility pole in Los Angeles was installed on the corner of Figueroa (then called Pasadena Avenue) and Piedmont Streets by the Bureau of Power and Light, the entity that would eventually become the Department of Water & Power.

Streetcar going down Piedmont Street, past the first utility pole in Los Angeles and the Arroyo Seco Library, circa 1946. Photo from the Los Angeles Public Library archives.

This single pole was the beginning of the city’s newly created municipal electric distribution system. Before this, there were three different private companies providing power to the city — Southern California Edison (which is still around), L.A. Gas & Electric (eventually bought by the DWP), and Pacific Light & Power (which merged with Southern California Edison).

The first utility pole in Los Angeles today.
That same corner today (March 7, 2021). The utility pole and the library are still there, but the streetcar tracks and wires are long gone. Photo from the author’s collection.

After this first pole was installed, others were placed around the city and connected together with a network of copper wires. Then, eight months later on November 13 1916, the whole network was powered up with electricity purchased from Pasadena’s municipal power plant. From these humble beginnings, the Los Angeles electrical grid has grown to the largest municipally-owned utility in the country.

The plaque, close up. Photo from the author’s collection.

This plaque commemorating the first utility pole in Los Angeles was placed in 1952 to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of when Los Angeles took control of of its water system and formed the Water Department under the control of the Board of Water Commisioners. The Water Department is now the DWP, but it’s still governed by the five-member Board of Water and Power Commisssioners.


The First Utility Pole in Los Angeles


Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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