The Redlands Electric Light and Power Company led by Henry H. Sinclair, Henry Fisher and George H. Crafts made history in 1892 with the announcement of a power plant on Mill Creek to produce hydroelectric power using a three-phase system. Their first big contract customer was the Union Ice Company. In December of 1892, the power company signed a contract with Union Ice to provide 150 horsepower for a twenty-five year period with an option for 250 horse power after one year. This was the largest contract by a power company to produce ice on the west coast.
Union Ice had a facility in Redlands and as late as May 1892 shipped 42 tons of ice to Redlands from Truckee, California. The ice was used to preserve railroad shipments of fresh fruit such as apricots, peaches, plums, and grapes. Several Redlands canneries used vast amounts of ice from early spring until late fall each year. Redlands men cut ice on Big Bear Lake in the winter and stored it in caves and shaded canyons under sawdust and tarps. The long trek down the mountain on the backs of burros cut into the ice blocks. Vast quantities were needed so most ice was used to make ice-cream treats.
Union Ice signed another contract with the Bear Valley Irrigation Company to supply the water. The ice company bought land on the southeast corner of Colton and Wabash Avenue next to the Bear Valley canal. Redlands Electric Light and Power Company promised to construct a $100,000 plant and distribution system to supply power. Construction on the power plant and $60,000 Union Ice factory proceeded all summer long. Union Ice contracted to supply 10,000 tons of ice with a labor force of fifteen. Newly completed Santa Fe tracks passed within less than one-hundred feet of the factory.
Mentone was quick to boast the factory as a sign of the colony success. Scipio Craig, editor of The Citrograph corrected the Mentone claim. The factory was just feet outside the boundary of Redlands and in the Crafton Township, Crafton School District and Crafton Voting Precinct. Mentone was just northeast of the building site. Regardless, Mentone watched with pride the construction of their new hotel and Santa Fe depot, both on Opal Avenue just blocks away.
Union Ice manufactured the first blocks of ice September 16, 1893, from the completed plant. By October, orders for ice exceeded plant capacity even though the plant was producing 32 tons daily. Redlands Electric increased the power to 250 horsepower and Union Ice began building a second large building.
In December 1893, a Union Ice engineer tested the new machinery with F. H. Knorr and J. H. Beath, Union Ice officials, in attendance. The power blew out a piston head and did $1,000 in damage to the machinery. The following week with