OUC History Book

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Orlando Gets First Power Plant At the turn of the century, Judge Cheney and

produce. Water from the water plant and

his sons began construction on an electric

electricity from the power plant were used to

generating plant on Lake Highland, renaming

produce the ice.

their company the Orlando Water & Light

In 1905, the company purchased a coal gas

Company. The power plant opened January 1,

plant and distribution network that had been

1901. Its lone generator, driven by a 150-

in operation since 1889. The gas plant, located

horsepower steam engine, had capacity of only

in the western part of the City, had a capacity

100 kilowatts. Initially, electricity was provided to

of 300,000 cubic feet of gas per day, and the

homes, stores and street lights on a “dark to

distribution network included 18 miles of

midnight” basis.

gas mains.

In 1901, the company was awarded a contract by the City of Orlando to provide 28 street lights

More than 15 years later, in July 1921, Orlando was authorized by the state legislature to issue

“of 2,000 nominal candle power or their

$1.5 million in bonds for purchase or construction

equivalent in incandescent lamps for $2,000 per

of a water and light plant, subject to a referendum

annum.” The City of Orlando previously had

vote. In September of that year, the City made an

granted the Orlando Water & Light Company a

agreement with the Orlando Water & Light

20-year franchise to provide water and electric

Company to buy the electric and water plant, at a

service starting January 1, 1901, and terminating

price to be fixed by a board of three arbiters.

on January 1, 1921. In 1903, the enterprising Cheney built an ice

By 1922, Orlando’s population had grown to about 10,000 and Judge Cheney — realizing a

plant (with an ice-making capacity of 60 tons per

need for wider services than his company was able

day and the capability to store 300 tons) at the

to supply — urged his friends to work and vote for

Lake Highland site, adjacent to the power and

a $975,000 bond issue to enable the citizens of

water plants. Sold locally and shipped to

Orlando to purchase and municipally operate his

neighboring towns, the ice was used to cool

privately owned utilities. Orlando Utilities

railroad cars and trucks that shipped fruit and

Commission was about to be born.

B R I N G I N G R E L I A B L E E L E C T R I C A N D WAT E R S E RV I C E T O O R L A N D O Judge John M. Cheney, “Founding Father and Visionary”

John M. Cheney

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Who was John M. Cheney? In the “History

private attorney, Orlando city attorney,

also served as judge for the Orange

of Orange County, Florida” published in

United States attorney for the southern

County juvenile court and recreation

1927 by William Fremont Blackman, Ph.D.,

district of Florida, United States judge

superintendent for the City of Orlando.

LL.D., it is said that “No other citizen of

for the southern district of Florida,

A section of the Dixie Highway in Central

Orange County was more esteemed and

Republican candidate for governor

Florida was officially named the Cheney

beloved than John Cheney.” His resumé

of Florida and Republican candidate

Highway in commemoration of his

was, to say the least, impressive. He was a

for the United States Senate. Cheney

service to Florida.

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