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Bistro 1908
70 Promenade du Portage
Formerly the Hull Electric Company

Bistro 1908

It all started in 1821 when Michael Faraday produced electricity by moving a brass wire in a magnetic field and, ten years later, constructed the first dynamo in history. In 1873, the first arc lamp in Canada shed its light on Winnipeg. In 1881, the Ottawa Electric Light Co. built a small power plant to feed 325 arc lamps illuminating several streets and 85 others installed in local factories on the Chaudière Falls, site of the first hydraulic generators in Canada. Thomas Edison perfected the light bulb that same year. In 1883, electricity illuminated the Houses of Parliament and streetcars made their appearance in Ottawa.

In Hull, the City Council asked E. B. Eddy to share the electricity that it had been producing since 1885 to feed its factories. The company refused, and in 1887, the Council hired Thomas Ahearn and Warren Soper, of the Ottawa Electric Railway Co., to install electricity in the streets of the city. The streetcar route would be extended only as far as the northern end of the Chaudière Bridge, in 1891.

On April 16, 1894, some businessmen, including entrepreneur Théophile Viau, banker Jacques-P. de Martigny, and millwright Stanislas Aubry, all from Hull, as well as Alexandre Bourgeau, a Montreal capitalist, and Charles-L. de Martigny, a physician from Saint Jérome, submitted to the city council of Hull an urban transportation proposal connecting Hull, Aylmer, Pointe-Gatineau and Ironside by streetcar. And so the Hull Electric Company was born.

This company sought to produce electricity for illumination, heating and the streetcar service. In May 1894, Bylaw 61 of the Town of Hull granted the company certain privileges, including a monopoly on transportation services and the distribution of lighting and heating for 35 years. The Ottawa Electric Co. contested the privilege of supplying electricity to the citizens and won their case before the Privy Council, which granted the company exclusivity in Hull until 1950.

Hull Electric was incorporated on January 12, 1895. The following month, it bought the hydroelectric power station from William Jackson and Robert Hughes Conroy, of Aylmer, who become the principal shareholders in the new company. In 1896, it built a power plant on the Deschênes Rapids, which provided electricity for the streetcars. In 1907, the company bought Thomas Ritchie's vacant land, located on the Promenade du Portage, and built Substation 4 there. It had two generators, two meters, two compensators, a control panel, four switches and four transformers as well as an office. In addition, there were poles, wires, transformers and all the accessories for the streetcar transit system from of Hull to Aylmer, as well as all the poles and transmission lines for the lighting system of the streets of Hull South, Aylmer and Deschênes. On November 11, 1928, the Hull Electric Company sold its interests to the Gatineau Electric Light Company Limited, which sold them to the Gatineau Power Company on April 6, 1931.

The changes in ownership did not affect the corporate name of the Hull Electric Co. until it stopped running the streetcar system on November 30, 1946. The first streetcar line ran from the terminal, under the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa, to Queen's Park in Aylmer, from 1896 to 1946. One line ran past Youville, Laurier, Hôtel-de-Ville, Main, Eddy, Ste-Hyacinthe, Lévis, Maisonneuve and Reboul Streets. Another line ran along Montcalm Street and St-Joseph Boulevard as far as Montclair. The plan of extending the line to Pointe-Gatineau and Ironside was never implemented. Besides the public transportation service, Hull Electric ensured the transport of freight, especially petroleum, from the storage depots at Jacques-Cartier Park, a noisy service that ran in the evening and at night, to the displeasure of the citizens.

Two men directed this company in Hull. The first, George Gordon Gale (born in 1882), from Quebec City, moved to Hull around 1905, as an engineer at Ross and Holgate, where he was vice-president and general manager from 1906 to 1926. He became the president of Gatineau Power in 1934, and then President of E. B. Eddy in 1940. His brother, Alfred V. Gale, replaced him at the helm of Hull Electric until the closure of the company. Substation 4 was used for delivering electricity until 1983. By then, the streetcars had long been absent from the streets of Hull.

In January 1946, Louis Bisson created the compagnie Transport urbain de Hull (Hull Urban Transport Company), which ran a network of buses. This marked the end of the era of the electric streetcars. On November 2, 1988, François Fortier bought this building and, in the late 1990s, converted it into a restaurant.