Blue Water Area Transit unveiled a sculpture on Friday, December 14, at 12:30 p.m. The sculpture celebrates the many milestones of local transit innovation and recognized William Pitt Edison as the father of local public transit. The unveiling ceremony took place at the Blue Water Transit Bus Center, 720 McMorran Blvd., in downtown Port Huron.
The powder-coated fabricated aluminum sculpture measures 16 by 7.5 feet. It was created by local artist Mino Duffy Kramer. Her credentials include the prestigious Accademia de Belle Arte in Florence, Italy, and an apprenticeship with sculptor Ferenc Varga at his studios in Florida.
“We started out wanting a statue of William Pitt Edison, but Mino suggested focusing on our many innovative milestones,” said Jim Wilson, BWAT general manager. “The finished sculpture includes five panels seen through five streetcar windows. It not only honors William Pitt, but also highlights our local transit history.”
William Pitt Edison was born on November 5, 1831 in Vienna, Ontario. He moved with his family from Canada to Milan, Ohio. After that, he lived in Port Huron until his death in 1891 at the age of 59.
William Pitt is the oldest brother of world-renowned inventor Thomas Alva Edison. Both brothers started out serving passengers on the Grand Trunk Railroad train to Detroit that opened in 1859.
Years before his name became synonymous with mass produced lightbulbs, Young Tom Edison worked as a candy butcher selling fruit and newspapers aboard the train. Meanwhile, his older brother saw an opportunity with the new train line to serve Port Huron residents with a horse-pulled trolley. William soon replaced the trolley with horse-pulled streetcars guided by rails along several local routes. He left the public transit industry in 1883, but his legacy of innovation continued.
BWAT stayed at the forefront of developing transit service. The agency was among the first to use electric streetcars in 1886 and motor coaches in 1927. BWAT supports the national effort to reduce our country’s dependence on oil. The agency started using and producing Compressed Natural Gas in 1996. It will soon add two zero-emission electric battery buses with $1.5 million from the Federal Transit Administration. BWAT ranks as Michigan’s top CNG producer and operates four public CNG stations. It operates the state’s largest fleet of buses powered by natural gas.
After an eight-year hiatus ended in 1976, the Blue Water Area Transportation Commission became Port Huron’s first publicly funded bus service. Since then, the agency has carried more than 31 million riders.