The Electrification of Cavtat

The Electrification of Cavtat

`This year, thanks to a charitable contribution, an electric light was installed in the parish church as well as in the parish priest’s apartment. At midnight on Christmas Eve, the activation of the electric light precisely at the moment in which the choir started singing ‘Gloria’ contributed much to the cheerful elation of the heart, and it seemed, as one good lady said, that the Lord had indeed been born. May everything be to the greater glory of God , wrote the parish priest of Cavtat, The Reverend Father Ivo Dagonig, on Christmas Day in 1930.

Electricity arrived in Cavtat thanks to Branko Ećimović, an engineer from Sarajevo. In 1930, he built a diesel power plant with two 25 hp engines. The engines were produced by the Deutz company with three-phase ELIN generators. On that occasion, 27 households received electricity, while there were five public light points, one with a 100-watt bulb and four with 25-watt bulbs. Cavtat thus received electricity almost 40 years after the first three-phase transmission of electricity demonstrated at the International Electrotechnical Exhibition in Frankfurt in 1891, as well as 34 years after the first commercial electric power system was put into operation in Buffalo, USA; namely, in 1896, Buffalo began receiving electricity from a power plant in Niagara Falls. It was the first hydroelectric power plant in the world, and was built in 1895 using Tesla’s patents based on alternating electricity.

As for Dubrovnik, the city received electricity in 1896; however, the only part of the city which actually received it was the Grand Hotel Imperial, where a home power plant was installed.

Jaruga, the first hydroelectric power plant in Dalmatia, as well as the first European hydroelectric power plant, was built on Skradinski buk in 1895; it was built by the Ante Šupuk i sin company, founded by the mayor of Šibenik and his son Marko. Marko Šupuk was a naval captain who visited the International Electrotechnical Exhibition in Frankfurt and was impressed by the successful attempt at transmission of a larger amount of power using a three-phase current. The father and son teamed up with the engineer Meichsner, who would later propose a project of Dubrovnik’s electrification, and, having obtained the necessary permits, begin the construction of a hydroelectric plant that would be put into operation two days after Niagara.

The Electrification of Cavtat
Cavtat, 1939

The introduction of electric public lighting to replace oil and kerosene lanterns in Dubrovnik was discussed at a Municipal Council meeting in February 1897. Mayor Frano Gondola presented the offer of the aforementioned company, which expressed its intention to introduce electric lighting in Dubrovnik, and proposed the establishment of a committee tasked with studying the offer and submitting a report to the council. In January 1898, the Committee for the Electric Lighting of the Old Town and Gruž, as it was named, presented an offer by the engineer Meichsner on behalf of Oestereichische Eisenbahn – Verkehrs Anstalt, a Viennese company.

Mayor Gondola was in favour of accepting the offer, but the cost of 7,000 forints a year seemed excessive to him and he was not sure whether it would exhaust the city’s financial possibilities. Councillor Matijević suggested that 16 lightbulbs be installed in the already existing kerosene lamp posts, which was accepted. In 1901, the public lighting was put into operation, first in the Old Town, Pile and Lapad, and subsequently in Ploče and Gruž.

Similar problems are always encountered where public lighting is concerned; a newspaper from 1939 contained the following report:

`Last Sunday, the weather was bad, cloudy and rainy, and it was only at 6:30 p.m. that the public lighting was switched on, although it was already well dark outside. Since it is a well-known fact that the public lighting is often on when not needed, it is rightly expected for it to be switched on when needed. Please pay a bit more attention.