Looking Back

Lake Jeff’s dam may have been about hydropower from the start

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 10/1/20

JEFFERSONVILLE, NY — So, here’s the lesson: When you want to know about the history of something, go ask a historian. 

As I was learning about Lake Jeff and its dam a couple weeks …

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Looking Back

Lake Jeff’s dam may have been about hydropower from the start

Posted

JEFFERSONVILLE, NY — So, here’s the lesson: When you want to know about the history of something, go ask a historian. 

As I was learning about Lake Jeff and its dam a couple weeks ago, I guessed that it was meant as a swimming and fishing lake. So the dam was just about making the lake.

Turns out, I was only partly right. 

Bill Cutler is the village historian for Jeffersonville, and he set me straight. 

The dam was designed in 1922, Cutler said, and it was constructed just before the village was incorporated. “It was initially for local power. Hydropower,” he said. 

It could generate enough electricity for 2,000 homes. Before you’re stunned by that number, remember that homes had far fewer appliances back then. But still.

Thomas Edison started his Illuminating Company in New York in 1882, feeding power to parts of Manhattan, according to www.nps.gov. By 1925, half of American homes had electricity. 

The other half, of course, didn’t. Electricity became more common in the 1930s.

No doubt the Lake Jeff Hotel—and those parts of Jeffersonville that had power— loved the light bulbs. 

And the swimming and fishing didn’t hurt either.

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