Detroit Edison sold electric home appliances from 1915 to 1983 in its showroom across the street. The earliest Ann Arbor homes were lit by fireplace flames and lard lamps. Oil, along with gas manufactured after 1858 from the burning of coal, lit most homes and streets until the arrival of electricity. Electric power came to Ann Arbor in 1884 when the Ann Arbor Van Depoele Light and Power Co. built a generating plant powered by coal-fired steam on Washington Street just west of the Ann Arbor Railroad. It provided safer, cleaner, and brighter power for 36 stores and residences and added 33 electric streetlights to the town's array of gas lampposts. For the next two decades, some areas continued to be lit by gas and many homes were equipped with both electric and gas lights in a combination fixture.
After 1886 dams along the Huron River generated hydropower. In 1905 the Detroit Edison Company started buying water rights, mills, land, and existing small water power plants along the river in order to establish itself as the major supplier of electricity in Washtenaw County. Later it provided electric power for Ann Arbor's streetcars and interurbans. Barton Dam, built by Edison in 1912, was the first of six new hydroelectric dams. The power supplied was inadequate for the rapidly growing electricity needs of the area, so coal-powered plants elsewhere expanded to meet the demand. Edison's dams created ponds that provided recreation as well as a scenic area that became Barton Hills.