Sir Adam Beck Road is named in honour of Adam Beck, Hydro founder
Sir Adam Beck
Sir Adam Beck
Born in 1857, Adam Beck was a manufacturer, politician, and power-authority commissioner. Feared and revered as an empire builder, he dominated provincial politics for a generation as he built and expanded the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario into the largest publicly owned power authority in the world.
The son of a German Lutheran foundryman and miller, Beck made his name as a manufacturer of cigar boxes. He was also an outstanding athlete, and mayor and MPP in London, Ont. As mayor, he led a movement of Ontario municipalities and boards of trade to get cheap electric power from Niagara Falls. In 1905, James P. Whitney made Beck head of a public inquiry that ultimately recommended creating a municipally owned, provincially financed co-operative hydroelectric distribution system.
Supported by bipartisan public ownership advocates, the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario began in a small way in 1910, but through Beck's aggressive promotion of "Power At Cost," thousands of new industrial, retail and household customers were soon added. By charging initial low rates to induce a large demand, then building huge, efficient generating stations whose low costs permitted further rate reductions, Beck rapidly expanded his system and drove most of his private competitors out of business.
He also browbeat balky municipalities, tyrannized provincial governments with his powerful following, and abused his regulatory authority to hamper private rivals. Eventually, he overreached himself and Ernest C. Drury's government cancelled his electric railway scheme. George H. Ferguson (Ontario premier from 1923 to 1930) also kept Beck and Hydro on a short leash.
The Great Steam Boat Race: The Water Lily
The Water Lily
Photo: Nancy Musselman