We cannot imagine a modern city like New York or its part without street lighting. After all, lights ensure safety at night when visibility is limited. It also contributes to the safety of residents because criminals are less likely to attack in lit places and prefer dark alleys for this. If the streets are lit, people will feel safer because the risk of theft and other crimes will decrease. Also, street lighting improves the quality of life of city residents, providing a comfortable and cozy atmosphere on the streets. It is pleasant to walk along illuminated shops, advertising signs and twinkling garlands. No one wants to illuminate the road with a phone and be afraid of falling into an open sewer hatch or becoming a victim of a criminal. This is why street lighting is so important. New York had it for a long time and has been developing it for centuries. Furthermore, bronx-future.com tells more about the street lighting of this big city and the Bronx, one of its boroughs.
The first street lights of New York and the Bronx
New York was mentioned for the first time in 1624. In this year the Dutch founded a trading settlement, which, in their opinion, could become an important source of income. Since then, the colony has been actively growing and developing. Along with its rise, the question of street lighting appeared.
The first attempts were made already in the 17th century when the city council installed lanterns on wooden poles to illuminate the roads. At the end of this century, it was ordered not to turn off the lights in the houses in winter. Later, every 7th house in the city must put the light on. This method of lighting existed for almost 60 years. In 1762, the city began to charge fees for the installation of lamps and the payment of watchmen, caretakers and the purchase of oil. The same year the government made the first attempt to install street lights.
Then this process moved extensively. There were more lanterns but all of them were wooden and lit the streets while burning candles, butter, oil or fat. The use of fat was a medieval European practice. The street lamps had reservoirs for the grease that kept the lamp’s flame burning. Fat was also used in some other US cities such as Philadelphia and Boston, as well as in Westchester County, which included the towns of Morrisania, Mott Haven, West Farms and Kingsbridge. Now they all belong to the Bronx.
However, such lighting was not efficient enough and quite dangerous so it was replaced by modern technologies. Other types of medieval lighting materials, such as candles, burn out quickly. In addition, they were expensive to manufacture and gave little light. Such street lighting could not meet the needs of a large city, so gas and later electric lanterns replaced it.
Lighting in Europe as an example for New York
New York is a relatively young city. When it appeared, such old European capitals as Paris, London and Amsterdam had already existed and were being developed for a long time. Street lighting has also developed significantly in these cities. Thus, in Paris between 1667 and 1763 there were already 6,500 candle lanterns. They were suspended 15 feet above the ground and placed 15 yards apart. This lighting was not daily. They turned it on only 20 days per month from October to March. If there was enough moonlight, the lanterns would not be lit.
Amsterdam was lit by oil lamps, as were Hamburg and Vienna too. In London, at the end of the 17th century, every 10th house was obliged to light an oil lamp from 6 PM to midnight. This procedure lasted from September 29 to March 25. In 1736, London installed and began to maintain 5,000 lanterns. In 1738, the city already had 15,000 oil lamps on the streets.
The street lighting in the Bronx in the 19th century
First, new metal street lights began to be installed in New York. This process started in the 19th century. Poles for these lanterns were produced in large quantities by an enterprise located in the Bronx, which was not yet a part of New York. The factory for the production of lanterns was the J. L. Mott Iron Works. New types of lanterns, particularly gas and oil, were installed on these metal poles.
Gas lanterns were know-how at the beginning of the 19th century. They used coal gas or methane to burn. It was transported to the city using pipelines made of carbon steel. During this period, i.e. in the 19th century, it was the most common street lighting technology and it made it possible to significantly improve street safety and provide people with light during the night. However, these gas lamps had their drawbacks such as low efficiency and frequent breakdowns. They could easily cause fires, so in the 1880s, they were replaced by safer and more efficient electric lanterns.
In 1879, the city became the first in the world to use electric street lighting. According to American historians, the first electric lights were installed on Broadway. The first cast-iron electric lanterns appeared in 1892. This became possible thanks to a technological breakthrough in electrification, which became one of the symbols of technical progress of that time.
What changed in the Bronx in the 20th century
In 1904, a great improvement was made in lighting when 16,000 old gas lamps in Manhattan and the Bronx were replaced with mantle lamps. A mantle lamp is a gas-discharge lamp used to light streets and other open spaces. It consists of a metal housing, in which there is a wick that supports the flame.
In the 1930s, traffic lights were put into operation to control cars and pedestrians. At that time, New York and the Bronx were illuminated by various lanterns. One could see lampposts, consoles and pedestals there.
In the 1950s, the city began to use sodium and metal halide lamps. They had a much higher efficiency and duration of operation compared to the old lanterns. Along with the change of lighting sources, the lampposts also changed. Most of the old wooden and cast-iron lanterns were replaced by modern steel and aluminum ones in the Bronx in the 1950s and 1960s.
Today, New York has more than 300,000 street lights that illuminate more than 12,000 kilometers of streets and roads.
Old street lamps of the Bronx
However, you can still find old lanterns that are at least 100 years old in the Bronx. Thus, these are lanterns No. 70 and No. 71 (the numbering is assigned by the department that protects such historical monuments). These lanterns are installed at the entrance to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and New York Botanical Garden.
Lamppost No. 83 is located on the west side of Broadway between 230th Street and Kimberly Place, the Bronx. Lantern No. 96 is on the southeast corner of the Mosholu Parkway and Post Road. Lampposts 101 and 102 are near the stairs to West 256th Street.
The street lighting of the Bronx developed in parallel with the European ones, and sometimes even preceded it. Isn’t this fascinating?