Citizens of Atlanta demanded electricity in 1883 and formed the Electric Light Company of Atlanta. In 1891, an Atlanta banker named Henry Atkinson formed the Georgia Power Company. He became a shareholder in Georgia Electric Light Company of Atlanta and soon gained control of the corporation. He completely rebuilt the electric system, which powered streetlights and electric streetcars. In 1902, he hired a young lawyer, Preston S. Arkwright, to charter a company called Georgia Railway and Electric Company and consolidate many of the streetcar lines and their generating plants into the new firm.
In 1906, Arkwright purchased a baseball team, the Atlanta Crackers, and located it near his streetcar line to boost ridership. The ploy worked. That same year, the second steel-tower transmission line in America was built by Georgia Railway and Electric Company. It carried 66,000 volts from Gainesville to Atlanta. Another hydro plant, named Lloyd Shoals, was completed in 1907 and added to Georgia Railway and Electric Company’s system in 1927.
Another major restructuring took place in 1911, when Atkinson acquired several more utilities, including Atlanta Water and Electric Power Company. He leased the Georgia Railway and Electric Company to the new company Georgia Railway and Power Company. In 1912, a 100-mile, high-voltage (110,000 volts) transmission line was built from Georgia Railway and Power’s new hydro plant being built at Tallulah Falls to one of this country’s first outdoor high-voltage substation at Boulevard in Atlanta. The next year, the first of six hydro units at Tallulah Falls opened, followed by four other units in 1914. A sixth unit, generating 12,000 kilowatts, was completed in 1919.
Ironically, the first power generated by Tallulah Falls was sold, not to Georgia Railway and Electric, but to Southern Power Company, later to become Duke Power Company. When completed, Tallulah Falls was capable of generating 72,000 kilowatts of electricity.