The first wooden utility poles and overhead lines appeared in Julian in 1886 when the east County town got telephone service. In December of 1931 the town finally got electricity, and more lines were added. Over the years – more services, more poles and more overhead lines. In the 1970s it was suggested the wooden poles lining Main street, with their collection of utility lines and cables and wires overhead, was unsightly. But removing the poles and moving all those lines underground would be prohibitively expensive. However, the idea - the vision of a downtown Julian without all the poles and lines never died.
During the past six years, the County’s Department of Public Works, in a joint venture with the various utility companies, worked with the Julian community, its local businesses and its residents, to turn that vision into reality.
The task was daunting. The project could not interfere with the town’s Fourth of July celebration. It could not disturb the Fall Apple Festival. And it had to have as little hindrance as possible on the weekend visits by hundreds of tourists who flock to Julian for the quaint shops and its world-famous pies.
Work was started July 7, 2008 - after the Fourth of July gala. It stopped from Friday to Sunday each week. During the Fall Apple Festival, the entire construction team and all the equipment left Julian. Now, less than a year after work started, three decades after the vision of Julian without poles and lines, the last utility pole was removed during a formal ceremony marking the completion of the project. Today, the poles are gone. The lines are buried – out of sight. And historic Julian looks historic.
“We are very pleased to have been a part of this project that greatly enhances the look of this beautiful town,” said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “The under-grounding of these lines and the removal of the unsightly overhead wires and cables restores a genuine historic look to this quaint town.”
Walking down the sidewalks of this charming town in the mountains about an hour out of San Diego, one can once again look up at blue sky unobstructed by ugly poles and a collection of lines and cables. Julian is picturesque once again. And the pies? They are still wonderful!