The Perfect Case for Undergrounding Wires


Imagine this building without the telephone pole and multiple utility wires. Waterbury, VT, 2012.

We’ve talked about utility lines previously, in terms of practicality. But what about philosophically and aesthetically? To me, the picture above represents the perfect example as to why undergrounding of utility lines is a good idea. Documentation is fairly difficult when there are telephone poles and wires in the way, don’t you think? And that is quite often the case on main street.

What do you think? Granted, utility wires and telephones poles tell a part of our history and technological growth, but they have not always existed. And who is to say that our future will include utility wires or should include above ground utility wires? Will there ever be a case for keeping wires because of historic significance? Do you think they are appropriate to keep or should we embrace new technology and remove the utility wires?


11 thoughts on “The Perfect Case for Undergrounding Wires

  1. Maria says:

    I like how this post is right after the massive power outages we’ve had! I agree aesthetically and as a victim of line damage due to falling trees! I mean, they do tell a story of electrifying the country, but I think this is one of those things we can write about and move on without. There was some article I read recently that Germany has buried their lines across the entire country. Would be interesting to see if their preservationists had this debate.

    • Kaitlin says:

      I agree. I’d love to know if preservationists have had a debate about power lines in other countries – or even in the USA. I especially like your comment, “this is one of those things we can write about and move on without.” An interesting measuring stick.

  2. Maria says:

    I have to completely agree with the previous Maria. Not only do they get in the way of documentation, and for just taking pictures of pretty houses for the fun of it as well, they do pose problems during storms. Where I am currently living in Columbus, Ohio (which is certainly dealing with damaged poles and downed wires in the aftermath of the recent storms), many of the poles run through people’s backyards. In one way it keeps the steetscape nice and clean, which makes for a better photograph, but I’m also thinking about the extra work created of getting into everyone’s backyards to repair damage. Then if you decide to bury the wires, you get into the whole extra concern of archaeological evidence that could be unearthed in the process.
    I think utility poles do have their place, I happen to like seeing them alongside train tracks with their old insulator caps, but I do not think that place is necessarily in residential areas.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Maria, good points about archaeology and seeing them along train tracks. I like the distinction of where they belong. Perhaps in our neighborhoods is a good place to remove them.

  3. Michael Emmons says:

    I’ve been telling people for years that I think utility lines are an odd antiquity that are “hanging around” for too long (see what i did there?). When I bring it up the power lines issue (surprisingly frequently), people often just shrug off my points. They just take it for granted because it’s all they’ve ever known. But seriously, almost everywhere we look, we have tangles of wires draped over sticks. It’s a ubiquitous blight on landscapes and streetscapes everywhere. I get the preservation aspect (I consult for a living history village and actually recommended early power lines as a “must” for their new 1920 Main Street), but I think the majority of modern power lines have little historic value. And I think people 75 years from now will look at pictures of our streetsscapes

    • Michael Emmons says:

      …and they will say, “How weird was it that back in the 2010s they had those electrical lines draped all over the place above ground?”. And they’ll have a hearty laugh. That’s what I imagine will happen. 🙂

      • Kaitlin says:

        Haha, maybe. Why in the world would they leave power lines above ground when it made so much sense to underground them? Well, I suppose the answer is most often cost. It’s very expensive to underground everything – a complete change in infrastructure.

  4. Mark says:

    Try shooting pics through hydro wires *AND* streetcar wires. I live in Toronto, where there’s overhead webs of wires. You can forget about getting a good picture of many properties. What’s really annoying is that the streetcar tracks are only in the oldr parts of town – exactly where many of the historic buildings are !!! Check this madness out:

    Streetcar Wires, Toronto

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