Discussion of a municipal power plant began in 1890 due to growing resentment of private interests controlling electrical services and streetcars. An effective monopoly emerged in 1900 with creation of the Seattle Electric Company (antecedent of Puget Sound Energy), angering reformers led by city engineers George Cotterill (1865-1958) and R. H. Thomson (1856-1949). Voters consistently sided with public ownership advocates through a series of additional bond elections.
The new Cedar Falls power plant delivered its first current to Seattle on January 10, 1905. The Seattle City Council created an independent Department of Lighting on April 1, 1910, and James D. Ross took over as its Superintendent in 1911. He held the post until his death in 1939.