Norwood Light: How it all Started
By Michele Taranto
While Norwood residents would like to feel their ancestors’ development of a municipal light system was groundbreaking, unfortunately, the town of Wellesley owns those rights as the first Massachusetts town-run lighting company with its implementation in 1894. Even so, Norwood was not far behind.
It has been 116 years since the Town of Norwood, and more specifically, the Norwood Municipal Light Department, began providing residential and commercial service. The local electric company launched in August, 1907. It took two years and many meetings and votes to initiate this valuable and convenient benefit to Norwood’s 6,000 residents.
The idea of a municipal light department was initiated in 1905 by attorney Harold Fales with his numerous letters to the Norwood Advertiser & Review advocating for an independent electric company. Discussions took place that same year at Town Meeting and SpecialTown Meeting. A motion by milliner Walter Tilton (yes, the same man who donated the carillon bells and named the Walter F. Tilton Memorial Carillon authorized the construction and maintenance to manufacturer and/or distribute electricity throughout Town.
Town Meeting reaffirmed their vote after a committee report and the vote reaffirmed the proposal. Now what? The Town took out a $25,000 loan (over 10 years) to construct a physical plant. Three citizens would overlook the project and department: Walter Tilton, and two committee members, John Gillooly, and James Berwick.
It took two years, for the Norwood Municipal Light Board to officially appear in the Annual Town Report for year ending January, 31, 1907. Engineer T. Russell Robinson was hired to oversee plan construction and installation of equipment, He was also instrumental in the recommendation of converting Norwood’s street lights from gas and oil to electric as well as implementing independent circuit to prevent town-wide service interruptions. He also doubled the initial budget of $25,000 to $50,000 to build an adequate facility.
Just seven short months later, the Norwood Municipal Light Department was provided residential and commercial service! Today, only 41 municipal light departments provide electrical service in the state, serving all or part of 50 communities. With the capabilities of additionally offering cable service, Norwood Light Electric & Broadband provides electric, high-speed interest, HD cable TV, and digital telephone to 15,000 homes and businesses in town.
It all started with an idea, and providing affordable electrical service to 6,000 in 1905. There were some stumbling blocks along the way, primarily a settled lawsuit regarding distribution, but look where Norwood is now. The envy of many out-of-town residents with its consistently low electrical, cable, and phone rates, and quick, dependable service that cannot be beat.
Norwood Light Broadband is located at 136 Access Rd., 781-948-1100. They are open Monday-Wednesday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.