If you haven't had the pleasure of attending the annual Electricity Fair (smud.org/ElectricityFair) at the Folsom Powerhouse, you really have to visit the 1895 Folsom Powerhouse on a scenic bluff overlooking the west bank of Lake Natoma, any time of year. Visitors are transported back in time to a pivotal and colorful period in California's history. The powerhouse contains massive General Electric transformers. Each transformer can conduct from 800 to 11,000 volts of electricity. You can also see the forebays and canal system that brought the water from the dam to provide the source of energy for electricity.
One of the oldest hydroelectric facilities in the world was also one of the first power systems to provide high-voltage alternating current over long-distance transmission lines for major municipal and industrial use. When visiting you can see how electricity was generated by falling water and transmitted 22 miles to Sacramento to power streetcars and factories. This pioneering technology became the prototype for today's electrical transmission systems, and is a reason it earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Much fanfare: The arrival of electric power at Station A in Sacramento on the morning of July 13, 1895, created great excitement and the planning for Grand Electric Carnival to be held on September 9, California's Admission Day. 30,000 people came from San Francisco alone in anticipation of the oncoming parade. The State Capitol building glowed with electric lights, floats delighted the crowds with their ingenious light arrangements, drawn by electric trolley cars powered by the new electricity relayed from Folsom.
When you go: The granite Powerhouse looks much as it did in 1895. It is a two-story brick building with generators, wooden flumes and a Tennessee marble-faced control switchboard. Photos and exhibits explain how the Powerhouse worked.