The Electric Utilities pavilion provided one of the most interactive exhibits on the Fair grounds. Visitors entered the pavilion and suddenly found themselves walking through a gas-lit street circa 1893. After browsing through the wonders of yesteryear, they then exited through the electric company’s office into a modern-day street scene. Sound effects included horses on a cobblestone street and an un-tuned piano.
One elderly woman screamed that she’d gone blind, not realizing the special effects of the gas-lit street. To complete the scene, the tops of the buildings were obscured by darkness.
Elderly people tended to linger on the gas-lit street, peering into the shops windows and reminiscing about the objects displayed. Older visitors, however, noted the lack of two typical institutions of the gas-lit era: a saloon with its swinging doors and a pawnshop with three balls. Younger visitors, however, rushed thought the cobblestone area and spent their time in the streamlined street of tomorrow.
Three women, two men and a boy, all professional actors, inhabited the 1892 venue. Niels Robinson, 14, spent his day playing throughout the street but was constantly at the beck-and-call of his “mother” (Minerva Courtnay) shouting “Tom — eee!” to do his homework. Occasionally she also threatened the youngster should take a bath, but promised to draw the curtains so onlookers would not be offended.