The Nights The Lights Went Out In Vero


Dane and Randy Pfarr revisit their childhood home along with their mom Jean, reminiscing about the property’s colorful history.

On Sept. 4, 1882, the nation’s first power plant capable of producing electricity and distributing it to people’s homes–the Pearl Street Power Station, established by Thomas Edison–cranked up its generators and supplied electrical power to some 85 customers in New York City. These first lucky Americans to emerge from the Little House on the Prairie era all lived within one square mile of the power plant, since the DC (direct current) power system on which Edison insisted could transmit electricity only a very short distance. It was not until 1895 when George Westinghouse’s AC (alternating current) power plant opened in Buffalo that electricity could be transported much farther and its availability began to extend all over the United States. Even so, another 23 years would pass before the lights came on in the little town of Vero, Florida, thanks to a man named Dane Alfred Pfarr.

By the age of 39, when he arrived in Vero, Pfarr had already made a name for himself in the fledgling power industry. His father George Pfarr had been born in Germany in 1839 and emigrated with his parents to the United States nine years later. Like everyone else, young George lived in a home without electricity. But the world was about to change. Two hundred miles away in Milan, Ohio, a little diaper-clad tyke was learning to walk and talk. His name was Thomas Alva Edison.

As the next few decades passed, George Pfarr grew up, served in the U.S. Army, married Margaret Priode, had seven children, and joined his wife’s brother-in-law in building a successful planing-mill business. Edison also grew up and became a great inventor; through his efforts, along with the work of several others, electricity became part of the American lifestyle as the nation entered the 20th century.

Read the entire article in the Summer 2007 issue

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