This alternating-current generator was built by the Westinghouse Electric Company in 1911. It stands in the eponymous Generator Park in downtown Anderson. The generator was made to power the Portman Shoals Power Plant, established along the Seneca River in 1897 by innovator William C. Whitner. Whitner, who studied alternating currents in New York under Nicholas Tesla, had installed a 5,000-volt alternating-current generator at High Shoals along the Rocky River in 1894 to power water pumps for the newly-formed Anderson Water, Light and Power Company. When that succeeded, creating enough power to supply both water and lights to the city, Whitner was inspired to generate electricity for larger projects. Since that time, Anderson has been known as the Electric City.
In 1897 financial investors allowed Whitner to establish the 10,000-volt Portman Shoals Power Plant. Located 11 miles west of Anderson, the plant supplied water and electricity to homes and local businesses, most notably the Anderson Cotton Mill. The mill began operations in 1890 using steam power. After the Portman Shoals Plant replaced its power source, Anderson Cotton Mill became the first textile mill in the South to be powered by long-distance electric lines.
Whitner went on to establish other power plants across the South, working with a young engineer, W.S. Lee. Whitner partnered with a medical doctor and engineer, Dr. W. Gill Wylie, to establish the Catawba Power Plant along the Catawba River in York County. The plant initially struggled financially, and Whitner accepted a job in Richmond, Virginia with the Virginia Railroad and Power Company. A patient of Dr. Wylie’s, James B. Duke, learned of his doctor’s venture and financed the remainder of project, forming the Duke Power Company, now Duke Energy. Lake Wylie in Fort Mill is named for Dr. Wylie.
The Portman Shoals Power Plant, which became a Duke Power plant, closed on December 9, 1960. The generator seen here was first displayed at the Coleman Recreation Center. It was later moved to the grounds of a 10,000-square-foot park which honors the generator and the man who brought electricity to Anderson.