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Rare tour shares Cedar Falls’ unusual history Touring a lost town by twilight
For the far greater part of the year, the once-hopping village of Cedar Falls is a quiet place where workers with Seattle Public Utilities go about their jobs, managing the scenic Cedar River Watershed and power plant.
But on two autumn nights each year, the place gets back a shade of its former life, as visitors stroll under the streetlights and take in the history of the town and its unique surroundings.
As dusk fell during the Cedar Falls Twilight Tour, held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 26 and 27, watershed employees handed out brochures, “History Hunt” sheets and flashlights to allow visitors to explore the streets and sights of the place, which dates back to the turn of the 20th century.
Cedar Falls began as a company town for Seattle City Light. When it began operating in 1904, the Cedar Falls hydroelectric power plant put out 2,400 kilowatts of electricity, pretty close to 100 percent of Seattle’s power needs. Today, the plant normally puts out about 15,000 kilowatts, only about 2 percent of Seattle’s needs today.
In its heyday in the 1930s and ‘40s, Cedar Falls was home to about 120 people. The town housed the utility company’s workers.
As a Seattle City Light town, residents did not pay for their electricity, so lights were seldom turned off, said Linda Carlson, a Twilight Tour host and author of “Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest.”
But over time, residents began deserting the place.
“Most of them left right at the end of World War II,” said Celese Spencer, public education specialist at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center. The Cedar River school district merged with