The first big 1904 winter storm hit a few days after Christmas, and Santa Rosans were crestfallen to find themselves without electrical power for nearly two straight days. The reliability of the service was just as bad as it had been at the beginning of the year, and maybe worse. Architect Jones and client Oates equipped this house with both gas and electric lights out of necessity, not for luxury’s sake.
“Colgate” was the Colgate hydroelectric power station, then five years old and over 130 miles away, in the Sierra Mountains foothills near Dobbins, California. This power plant supplied the “juice” for the upper Sacramento Valley, North Bay and East Bay Counties, and in 1901 held the record for the longest distance power transmission anywhere. The success of Colgate was the foundation of the California Gas and Electric Corporation, which would become PG&E. Too bad they cared more about expanding their empire than providing reliable service to existing customers.
The breakdowns in the electrical power and lighting service last night and Thursday night do not offer a very encouraging outlook for Santa Rosa during the stormy weather certain to come later in the winter.. Efforts have been made by the big corporation supplying Santa Rosa, Petaluma, San Rafael and Napa with electricity between here and Napa so that the fury of the heaviest weather would not interfere with the wires and cut off the current. And it has not yet been demonstrated that the work is not a success.
However the breakdown on Thursday night was due to a landslide at Colgate, where the big power house is located. Such accidents are liable to occur at any time and are of a character that cannot easily be foreseen and provided against. Then again, as happened last winter, accidents to the main line from Colgate south are possible in stress of weather and in no wise reflect upon the careful management of the great enterprise which supplies so many of the communities in the central part of California with light and power.
But in some localities provision has been made locally to guard against throwing an entire city into darkness in case of a mishap to the main power line. Such provision can be accomplished in one of two ways, either by an auxiliary plant capable of generating power, or by a storage battery such as the new electric line has built [sic] for itself at Sebastopol.
Either plant costs money to install, equip and maintain, but they have not been so expensive that it has not been considered wise to have them in other places. It is very probable that an investment of a plant of such a character to supply the needs of Santa Rosa and vicinity might not be considered for a moment on the reasonable ground that the profile from this field could not justify the expense.
It is probably not impossible, though for the company to establish in Santa Rosa an auxillary plant which could take care not only of the residents of this city in an emergency, but also those of Napa, Petaluma, San Rafael and other such towns as may be connected with the branch line upon which they are located. An arrangement of this kind could be handled from Santa Rosa by telephone and would, if established, add immeasurably to the venience [sic] of patrons, to say nothing of enabling manufacturing plants, dependent upon electrical power to operate machinery uninterruptedly.– Santa Rosa Republican, December 31, 1904