--photo courtesy Ivan Quattlebaum
Searcy light plant c1900: The building in the foreground was the first successful light plant in Searcy. It was municipally owned and was paid for with a special real estate tax. The first plant was privately owned but became a financial failure. Since the equipment was designed to develop direct current, the users near the ends of the distribution lines received rather low voltage. There were few uses for electricity other than for lights and the fact that they were dimmer in the outlying areas was of little consequence. A close inspection will disclose the “wildcat” steam whistle (to the left of the light pole) that was used as a municipal fire alarm signal. It was calculated to make the hair stand up on the necks of the most blasé residents. Since the only fire protection was provided by unorganized volunteer bucket brigades, great excitement followed the sounding of the alarm. The building in the background is the original sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church, South. It was on the lot where Robertson’s Rendezvous later stood. The light plant was sold to the Arkansas Light & Power Company (predecessor of the Arkansas Power & Light Co.) in 1925 for $400,000. Proceeds of this sale were distributed to the then-owners of real estate. It proved to be quite a windfall to them. The new owners completely rebuilt the distribution system and started distributing alternating current.