Wausau owes its existence to the Wisconsin River that flows through it. As early as 1841, logs were being sent down to Big Bull Falls, where sawmills were harnessing the river’s power to drive powerful saws. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, things had changed considerably. Papermills and other industrial concerns had begun erecting dams, rendering the river impossible to navigate in anything large than a canoe that could be carried around portages. Logs could no longer be sent downriver in large numbers and were now carried to mills by rail, which was cheaper for the lumber companies. Smaller hydroelectric projects had been introduced to the river at Big Bull Falls since 1883, when the Bee Hive Store building (318-324 Third Street) became the first electrically illuminated building in Wausau. The Wausau Street Railway company built a new powerhouse at Wausau in 1908, harnessing the east channel of river, the section that today is the kayaking course. This powerhouse, and its dedicated generators, were mainly built to provide power to Wausau’s electric street cars, but it quickly found eager customers around the city. The demand for electricity in the region led to a major construction project in 1920; to build a full hydroelectric dam and new powerhouse. The new dam spanned the west channel of the Wisconsin River. It was built by a crew of 200 over the course of the next year, at a cost of more than $1 million. The completed powerhouse featured two 1,800- kilowatt GE generating units with space for a third, which would be added in 1925. The Wausau Street Railway company rebranded a few times to reflect this changing focus away from street cars, until it finally merged with the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation in 1933.