J J Wright was a leader in Canada’s electric industry. He lived in Parkdale during a dynamic period, leaving us with contested histories. His sight line to the lake was broken by tall buildings. Contending opinions with sources are offered. Comments are very welcome.
0 John Joseph Wright (1847-1922), general manager of the Toronto Electric Light Company for many years beginning in the 1880s, lived at 14 Gwynne Avenue. The house is Second Empire styling with an Italianate tower that afforded a view of Lake Ontario. The sight lines are explored in maps later in this article.
Photo taken with film camera by Mike Filey. Ivy covered the entire building obscuring all the historic details and part of the windows while possably damaging the brick. The overgrown bushes have been removed, while a tree has grown into the picture. The front wall has been restored. Commendable restoration.
1 John Wright’s house was smaller than today. The original house extended back just beyond the arched window. The side appears to have been rebricked, while the front is original polychrome brick work.
2 The porches were usually added later. Immediately behind the side porch the extension widens the house. Analysis of the maps shows this extension was added between 1903 and 1912.
3 The extension was consistent with the Italianate styling. The paint on the rear wall may have been added to protect the brick from the acid rain of the 1980s. I am not sure when acid rain started and ended but bricks and mortar were corroding rapidly at the time.
4 Protruding windows were popular at this time. Queen Anne styling?
7 The bricks in the porch are made from rejected bricks. This was a fashion before 1900, seen on the south end of Beaty Ave suggesting the porch was built before 1900.
1848 From ‘Parkdale in Pictures’ page 60, “John Joseph Wright (1847-1922), general manager of the Toronto Electric Light Company for many years beginning in the 1880s, lived at 14 Gwynne Avenue. In 1883 he was engaged, along with Charles Van Depoele, by the Toronto Industrial Exhibition to work on an electric railway for demonstration at that year's fair. Real success came in 1885 with the invention of an underrunning trolley pole which picked up electric current from the overhead wires, the system still used by streetcars. Wright ran an electrical business in Parkdale in the 1880s, and was on Parkdale's town council in 1886. In 1891, he was the first president of the Canadian Electrical Association.”
1848 John Joseph Wright Plaque. 1884 success with CNE Electric Trains. Commutator and Regulator for Dynamo-electric Machines. Patent no. 17319 filed by John J. Wright
1882 http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wright_john_joseph_15E.html One of a number of early electrical entrepreneurs vying for opportunities, in the summer of 1882 Wright opened Toronto’s first commercial power station using generators provided by Thomson and Houston and driven by surplus steam from a nearby printing plant. Distribution wires were strung across the rooftops, and in 1884 Wright applied to use the poles of the newly organized Toronto Electric Light Company Limited. Since illumination was required only at night, he sold electric motors to stimulate daytime demand.
1883 the History of Electricity is a Story of Canadian Innovation. John Wright, the first Canadian Electrical Association President, demonstrates the first electric street railway at the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, (later replaced by the CNE). This would have involved the third rail on the ground. Better methods were developed later.
1884 Toronto Electric Light Company http://broom03.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Toronto%20Electric%20Light%20Company The Toronto Electric Light Company was an early electricity supplier in Toronto, founded and presided over by John Joseph Wright (1847–1922) and owned by Sir Henry Pellatt. Founded in 1882, TELC opened a steam driven power plant at Scott Street and The Esplanade. The plant was used to win a contract to provide night time street lighting (50 lights), replacing the oil and kerosene lamps in the old city of Toronto on King, Queen and Yonge Streets. By 1884 it was "used by a number of prominent establishments" as well. This power plant lasted into the 1920s when it was replaced by Central Heating Plant.
In 1885 he built the first electric streetcar, using an overhead trolley pole that he appears to have invented. The Toronto Industrial Exhibition sold 15,000 rides on it the first season. Wright never patented this. Wright was on Parkdale's town council in 1886. In 1891, he was the first president of the Canadian Electrical Association Picture complements of Mike Filey.
The above picture was kindly provided by Mike Filey. "I recall in 1975 we built a “replica” of the 1885 Wright-Van de Poele experimental car for the CNE. It was on display in a large dome. The occasion was the intro of the proposed new streetcar for the TTC’s aging PCC fleet. The mock-up of the CLRV car developed by the UTDC was also in the dome. Those were were interesting years at the CNE, not like today." Mike Filey
1893 Toronto Railway Company car No. 316 on the Queen St line. in 1894 all street cars had become electric.
1894 Arc Light at Queen and Dufferin.
1898 Queen St looking east with Gwynne Ave on the right. Above the street car overhead wires are faint but visible.
1899 Dowling Ave looking north across tracks at an arc light.
1905 Cartoon of John J. Wright involved in the debate over generators vs Niagra Hydro lines to Toronto. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wright_john_joseph_15E.html In September 1884 the Globe identified him as head of the J. J. Wright Electric Light Company. The city directory of 1885 described him simply as an electrician. His private operations ended in 1886 when he became superintendent (later manager) of the Toronto Electric Light Company, which had acquired a municipal street-light franchise in 1884. Contested by Consumers’ Gas and the Toronto Railway Company, the renewal of the franchise in 1894 was tainted with the hint of scandal. The chair of the city’s fire and light committee, Alderman William T. Stewart, supposedly suggested that Wright provide $13,000 for distribution to council members. Stewart was tried but the charge was not proved. Wright’s involvement with electrical application illustrates the challenge of working in a field of rapid technological and corporate change. He testified before the Ontario legislature’s private bills committee in 1902 that long-distance transmission was impractical and that, in Toronto, steam-driven generating plants were more economical. Although the city received its first electricity from Niagara Falls in 1906, he was still arguing in 1908 that high-voltage lines posed a “grave danger” to farm buildings. Other electrical engineers, such as Robert Alexander Ross of Montreal, disagreed. Whatever the limits of Wright’s know-how, his managerial skills remained valuable, and he stayed with Toronto Electric Light after it became linked in 1908 to William Mackenzie’s large holding company, the Toronto Power Company Limited. In 1910 he was made second vice-president and general consultant. By 1914 he was a consulting engineer with no connection. A member of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Wright was the first president of the Canadian Electrical Association in 1891–93. He held the office again in 1904, and served on the managing committee of the association until its affiliation in 1911 with the National Electric Light Association in the United States, a step he did not support. In appearance this genial electrical pioneer was a stocky man with a large moustache. An enthusiast “of all kinds of aquatic sports,” he belonged to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and spent many a weekend “speeding” across Lake Ontario, “the central figure of a jolly party.” He retired from the electrical industry about 1915, settled in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and moved to Newcastle in 1921. He died the following year and was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.
1911 City Hall decorations for the inauguration of Toronto Hydro, May 2, 1911 http://broom03.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Toronto%20Electric%20Light%20Company TELC was eventually linked to Toronto Power Company and in 1906 TELC Toronto Power Generating Station was opened at Niagara Falls, Ontario to harness hydro electric power for Toronto. The company was acquired by Ontario Hydro in 1922, after private utilities ended in the early 1900s under the order of Sir Adam Beck.
1911 This settles the issue of when hydro towers went through Sunnyside.
1911 Hydro towers between Toronto and Niagara.
1915 Front cover of the Electric Service Magazine published by the Toronto Electric Light Co. http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=d023a83a0083c410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD However, in 1913 and 1914, there were a number of power interruptions, and residents who had switched from TELC were quite upset. The THES was actually forced to buy power from TELC, which proved to be an embarrassment for the commissioners. The strategy of Adam Beck to address customer dissatisfaction was to use "the weapon of cheapness." He mandated very low rates to be charged by THES, and customers enjoyed prices that were 50% less than those of TELC.
1915 the strategy of the TELC was to survive with higher private rates. We went public then. Governments are selling utilities back to private companies because we have forgotten the lessons of history!!!!
1921 The TTC along Queen to Parkdale. https://www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/History/Turning_90_The_TTC_Since_1921.jsp http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly? With the arrival of World War I, there were increasing demands for power, and from the fall of 1917 to the fall of 1920, the winter months were marked by power shortages of increasing severity. The situation was finally relieved in the early 1920s when the private charters of TELC and the street railway expired, and the municipal system became the sole distributor of power in Toronto. In 1921, William Mackenzie's franchise to operate streetcars in the city expired, and the Toronto Street Railway became defunct. The City had an act passed by the provincial government providing for the formation of the Toronto Transportation Company. The TTC was to take over and operate the former street railway and the other civic lines that had been constructed by the City. Like the THES, the TTC was to be run by a three-member board of commissioners, none of whom could be a member of City Council. There were many points of connection between the TTC and THES, such as the joint use of poles, and electric railways were a major market for electrical power sold by the THES. To save money and to be efficient, council decided to amalgamate the THES and the TTC. The two organizations shared two commissioners--P.W. Ellis and George Wright--and H.H. Couzens served as the general manager for both. Even after the TTC and the THES split in 1924 when Couzens left Canada for a job in Brazil, Ellis and Wright continued to serve on both commissions. P.W. Ellis died on April 21, 1929, after having been the chairman of the THES for eighteen years.
1884 map of Parkdale showing the lake views from 14 Gwynne Ave.
1884 map At number 72 Gwynne Ave, lot 24 just north of King St we see small footprint of the three story house with a tower overlooking the lake.
1912 map The same house now bearing the address of 12 Gwynne on lot 24 has been significantly enlarged and large, still existing, houses have been built at 1244 and 1250 King Street East. The view would have disappeared.
2016 map showing the current street numbers and outlines of the buildings. 14 Gwynne Ave.
2016 map showing Wright Ave that was named for Joseph Wright per ‘Parkdale in Pictures’ page 60.