Have you ever wondered what the statue of Mr. Whitner was doing on the square in Downtown Anderson? Did you notice that Anderson has Whitner Street and a Whitner Building? The Mr. Whitner must have been a pillar of society but, what did he do exactly?
But, let’s did a little deeper… Why do they call Anderson the Electric City? Was it the first city in South Carolina to have electricity or what? And what is the weird thing at the corner of McDuffie and Whitner Streets that sits in Generator Park? Well here is the story…
Anderson, SC was the first city in the United States to have a continuous supply of electric power and the first in the world to create a cotton gin operated by electricity.
William C. Whitner, a native of Anderson, was largely responsible for Anderson becoming known as “The Electric City.” Born on September 22, 1864, he attended and graduated from the University of South Carolina with a plan to become a lawyer. Whitner went back to USC and worked as an assistant to a mathematics professor while studying civil engineering. He graduated from USC for the second time in 1885.
Whitner conceived the idea of generating alternating current of electricity using the turbulent river water. Whitner returned to Anderson in 1894 and leased a plant, in McFall’s grist and flour mill at High Shoals on the Rocky River 6 miles east of town, for his newly formed Anderson Water, Light & Power Company. He installed an experimental 5,000 volt alternating current generator to attempt to generate and transmit electric power to the water system pumps at Anderson’s Tribble Street power and water yard.
It worked! Thus, it ended up supplying enough power to light the entire city of Anderson and also to operate several small industries in our fine city. The Charleston News and Courier promptly dubbed Anderson “The Electric City.” On the grounds of Generator Park is the century-old generator that was operated by Whitner at the Portman Power Plant.
So, stand a little higher Andersonians, our dear Mr. Whitner outsmarted Thomas Edison when it came to electricity.
Sources – Downtown Anderson, Wikipedia, ychistory.org