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Give Thanks for What We Don't Have

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2007, at 08:52PM
Power Lines in the Fashion District Eric Richardson [Flickr]

It's often hard to appreciate the visual impact of something when it's not around. It's easy to take for granted Downtown's freedom from the visual blight of telephone poles and their associated wires, but it sometimes surprises me just how close the cables come to the city center.

As you approach the core of Downtown the lines simply taper away before finally disappearing, their function replaced by underground conduit.

It wasn't always this way. Early in its life Downtown had poles to carry phone and power lines, as shown in this 1890's photograph.

In 1897, though, City Council decreed that the phone and electric utilities had one year to underground all their cables in the core of Downtown. The deadline got pushed back a time or two -- in 1898 Edison blaimed their lack of compliance on all supplies being taken for the war -- but all work was done by the end of the decade. Over a century later I'm quite grateful to those councilmen for taking that stand.

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