What’s the buzz at the corner of U.S. Highway 17 S. (N. DeSoto Avenue) and Cypress Street? The Florida Power and Light Arcadia Substation is undergoing an “expansion project.” The results will be “an unmanned facility for the transformation, regulation, and distribution of electricity,” according to the June 5, 2019, zoning application, submitted by SOMI Engineering. The installation includes “high voltage electrical equipment to transform and distribute electricity.”
Marie Bertot of FPL said that the project is a “hardening” or “system improvement” to make the grid “stronger, smarter, and more storm resilient.” It will provide “additional capacity to serve our customers in the surrounding neighborhoods.”
She also assured that FPL was “committed to working safely and respectfully in the community before, during, and after the project.”
However, construction workers closed off Cypress Street on Veterans Day without permission from the City and hampering emergency vehicles leaving from and returning to the Cypress Street fire station. In addition, a 20-ton crane and other equipment was parked over a city sewer line slated to be replaced even though the city had requested that the project avoid use of the utility easement.
The expansion project is a historic site, where the Arcadia Electric Light, Ice, and Telephone Company was established on March 30, 1901, according to the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations.
On Dec. 2, 1901, Jone Lee Jones and his wife Mourning Johnson Jones sold the property — Block 10 — for $300 to the Arcadia Electric Light, Ice, and Telephone Company, according to Deed Book 40, p. 545. Signing the deed as Company president was Ed Scott.
Peter Edmund “Ed” Scott (1866-1920)
As a 19-year-old, he arrived in Florida in 1885, according to Howard Melton in his book, Footprints and Landmarks: Arcadia and DeSoto County, Florida. Scott and a friend worked in a packing house in Tampa. Later, he learned to survey from Kelly B. Harvey who platted the town of Trabue, later renamed Punta Gorda. Harvey served on the first Punta Gorda City Council as shown on the Punta Gorda City Hall Annex mural, 126 Harvey St. (No doubt the street is his namesake.)
Scott bought real estate in Bartow, Fort Ogden, and Arcadia where he planted a citrus grove. He surveyed the plat for Solana, northeast of Punta Gorda, in 1889. He worked as far south as Naples and Key West.
In 1889, he joined his brothers as a stockholder in Richmond Dairy. Three years later, he purchased a dairy farm in Marietta, Georgia, and lived in Atlanta. The dairy burned in 1900, and he returned to Arcadia to establish the Arcadia Electric Light, Ice, and Telephone Company.
In 1904, he married Emma Royall from Virginia, and they had one son and six daughters. The Scotts built a house at 107 N. Manatee Ave. that burned in 1981. He and his brothers William and David owned citrus groves and operated the Scott Brothers Citrus Packing House.
In addition, Ed Scott was an unceasing advocate for “good roads” in Florida, and he used that phrase as a title for a column in the local newspaper. As volunteer chairman of the State Road Department — today’s Florida Department of Transportation, he ensured that the Dixie Highway — connecting Michigan to Miami — bisected Arcadia.
The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1909 depicts the Arcadia Electric Light, Ice, and Telephone Company, owned by Scott, with the note, “Plant runs day and night. Capacity 6 tons [of ice] in 24 hours.” Wood was burned to create steam to power the “dynamos.”
On Feb. 24, 1913, Scott sold the ice and electric company to the Utility Securities Corporation of Delaware, as recorded in Deed Book 94, p. 155, and on April 11, USC sold the company to Southern Utilities Corporation of Kissimmee, Florida, according to p. 162. SUC had been established in March.
Scott remained president and general manager of the Arcadia Telephone Exchange, as listed in the 1915 city directory, then the Scott Telephone Company in 1917. The Company became Inter County Telephone and Telegraph in 1924.
Clyde A. Byrd (1890-1972)
In the 1915 and 1917 Arcadia city directories, the Arcadia Ice and Electric Company was managed by Clyde A. Byrd, with a degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech.
In 1914, he had moved from Live Oak, Florida, to Arcadia, to manage the plant, owned by Southern Utilities Corporation, according to the 1914 Sanborn Fire Insurance map. Ice capacity had increased to 20 tons along with greater power generation.
From January 1918 to April 1919, Byrd served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps at Camp Alfred Vail in New Jersey.
In 1920, he married Wenda Wey, daughter of pharmacist Jake Wey and his wife Emma Greene Wey. The following year, the Byrds built the home at 117 S. Hillsborough, next door to the Wey home at 314 E. Magnolia Ave.
Clyde Byrd continued as manager, and the electric and ice company was listed as Southern Utilities Company in the 1921 and 1923 directories. In 1921, Byrd supervised the construction of the company’s office at 11 N. Polk Ave.
Near the close of 1925, Southern Utilities was converted and consolidated into Florida Power and Light. The power plant burned in 1949 and was rebuilt west of the original structure, leaving the historic site for the present substation expansion.