Hearthstone Historic House Museum

The Hearthstone Historic House Museum is a historical home in Appleton, Wisconsin, United States that has been converted into a museum. On September 30 1882, it became the first residence in the world powered by a centrally located hydroelectric station using the Edison system. At that time, the house was the residence of Henry James Rogers, a paper company executive and banker. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 2 1972.


The house is located at 625 W. Prospect Avenue in Appleton, Wisconsin. The house is situated on the banks of the Fox River on Wisconsin Highway 47.

Electric source

The source of electricity for the home was the Appleton Edison Light Company , first commercial electric plant in America. The house was powered by the Vulcan Street Plant, Rogers' hydro-electric plant that he used to light his paper mill (Vulcan Paper Company, now Appleton Papers). The small plant in Appleton was put into operation two weeks before a much larger second plant in New York was put into operation. The Appleton plant was able to power 250 sixteen candle power incandescent lamps. Residential customers were charged $7 per lamp per year.

Distribution wires were bare copper. Light amounts of cotton were used to insulate the wire in the house. Wires were fastened to the walls with wood cleats. Tape was wound around wires where they passed through partitions. Fuse blocks were made of wood, as was the sockets and switch handles. Examples of all this equipment still operate in Rogers' home.

There were no voltage regulators, so operators regulated the voltage with their eyes. Lights went bright and dim, depending on power usage at the mills. Several weeks later the customers moved to a separate wheel on a lean-to shed attached to the mill so the electricity would not be affected by the mill's operation. Storms and fallen branches frequently caused short circuits. The power plant was shut down until the problem was discovered and corrected. Residential service was from dawn to dusk.

Rogers wrote the Western Edison Light Company on November 11 1882 and said: "Gentlemen, I have used 50 lamps in my residence and have used them about 60 days. I am pleased with them beyond expression and do not see how they can be improved upon. No heat no smoke no vitiated air and the light steady and pleasant in every way and more economical than gas and quite as reliable."

House ownership


The house was designed by Wisconsin architects Henry VanStrom and William Waters. The house was dedicated on September 30 1882. Rogers built the house as a showplace for his wife. The Rogers family lived in the house until 1893.

Other owners/occupants

Various tenants occupied the house, until A. W. Priest bought the house in 1900. Priest died in 1930, and his estate was unable to sell the house. The house was turned into a restaurant by John G. Badenoch who began renting it in 1931. Frank Harriman took over renting the restaurant from 1933 to 1938, when the restaurant closed. The house was sold to Frederick H. Hoffman in 1940.

The house was purchased by the Friends of Hearthstone Inc. in 1986. The building opened as a museum in 1988.


The house was reopened for tours on July 23 2005 after being closed for over a decade. The house is currently open for tours on Tuesday through Saturdays. There are no tours mid-January through mid-February. The house offers a Christmas holiday display in December, including candlelight tours.

The house still uses its original Thomas Edison light fixtures and period electroliers. The house features the "Hydro Adventure Center", a hands-on operating model of the earliest central hydroelectric station.

The house features nine fireplaces surrounded by imported Minton tiles, intricate interior handcarved woodwork carved from woods native to Wisconsin, period furnishings, and stained glass windows.

Local press coverage from 1882

The electric lamps were described by the two local newspapers:

The Appleton Post October 5, 1882

"The electric lamp consists of a pear-shaped glass, exhausted of air, into which is sealed a filament of carbonized bamboo, slightly thicker than horse hair. This filament, becoming incandescent by the passage of the current of electricity through it, emits a beautiful soft white light, absolutely steady and constant and equaling in intensity, or exceeding if desired, the illuminating power of a gas jet of the best quality."

Appleton Crescent October 7 1882

"These bulbs are connected with the wire and the current may be turned on and off as readily as a gas burner. Each lamp will burn 600 hours, and can be renewed easily, but at some considerable expense, of course. The price for the same amount of light as that of gas will be substantially the same. The electric light may entirely supersede the use of gas as an illuminator in our city, but that remains to be seen hereafter."

The two newspapers merged in 1920 to form the Appleton Post Crescent.


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