A Hot Issue

February 15, 2013 § 4 Comments

Susan was steamed! The state Public Utilities Commission had allowed the Springfield Gas and Electric Company to increase the rates for steam and hot water heat to residences.  The Commission held a hearing at the State Capitol on December 18, 1918, where the public was invited to comment on the rates and service of the company.  So many individuals appeared to protest that the meeting had to be moved from a committee room to the Senate chamber.  Susan’s testimony caught the ear of a reporter and was featured in the December 19, 1918, Illinois State Register:

Brick Bats and Bouquets Handed Utilities Company by Twenty-two Witnesses

Mrs. Susan Lawrence Gehrmann of Fourth Street and Lawrence Avenue stated before the utilities commission yesterday that, in below zero weather, her house was so cold that “she had lost both her friends and her religion.” She testified that on one occasion, when, in bitter cold weather, their heating service had been particularly good, she later found that it was due to a broken main which was shutting off other heating customers on that circuit.  Her heating bills this year would aggregate $625 as against $525 in earlier seasons, she said.

We interpreters have been told that the many drapes in the doorways and open spaces in the house were hung for climate control.  Their function was to keep the cold out and the heat in.  Since Frank Lloyd Wright incorporated those drapes in his 1902 design of the Lawrence House, the steam heat must have been an issue from the beginning and  was still plaguing Susan in 1918.  Fortunately all has been resolved, and with the recently updated heating system, the Dana-Thomas House is very comfortable during these cold months.  No one needs to lose either  friends or religion.

Reception Area with Drapes

Lawrence House Reception Area with Drapes

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