KNOW YOUR LAMPPOSTS: the Donald Deskeys

The Donald Deskey lamppost was introduced in 1958 at Broadway and Murray Street alongside City Hall Park, and was brought out as a standard NYC lamppost in 1962. It was designed by architect and industrial designer Donald Deskey, who is  most famed for the interiors of Radio City Music Hall, as well as the Crest toothpaste tube.

The Deskey quickly gained favor because of its adaptability: the two slots running the length of the shaft could hold park lights, stoplights, and other streetlight masts: a Deskey placed on a street corner, for example, could hold two masts facing in two directions, illuminating both cross streets.

The Deskey’s one weakness was in where/how to position the orange fire alarm light, which for decades announced the presence of a fire alarm. The city could never decide on a fixture that would stay in place for long, given the wear and tear NYC lampposts have to go through.

In addition to the common single mast variety there was also an extra-long double mast variety used to illuminate wider roads.

The Deskeys, despite being quite popular in the 60s and early 70s, stopped production in the 1980s and when one falls by the wayside, it’s replaced by a different style post.

Categorized in: One Shots Street Lamps

8 Responses to KNOW YOUR LAMPPOSTS: the Donald Deskeys

  1. LS says:

    I didn’t realize this style has been around since 1958. We lived in Brooklyn and I did not have my first Deskey sighting until 1964 when we were driving on Woodhaven Blvd and I spotted them on one of the side streets.

  2. LS says:

    McKinley Park was “my” park as we lived across the street. Not sure when the Deskey in the above photo was installed, by at least until we moved away in June 1964, the park was illuminated by “Corvingtons” (type G, I think).

  3. Tal Barzilai says:

    Is the lamp in that image still there today, or is it probably gone by now?

  4. somebody says:

    They still have some of these double-long Donald Deskey-style streetlights on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway near Laurel Hill Boulevard, and if you look around the general Maspeth/Ridgewood/Middle Village/Glendale area in Queens, some of the standard Deskey lampposts still exist. Otherwise, these streetlamps are an extinct species among NYC streets.

    • somebody says:

      My mistake. They can also be found on some old NYC highways built during the World War II era, and also remote/industrialized areas of NYC, such as Maspeth. By the way, there used to be Deskey streetlights in my neighborhood, but they were recently torn down in favor of cobra head streetlights.

  5. Lawrence Lambert says:

    There are a few Deskey-style lights along Park Drive in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, along with one old – and fading – arrow shaped one way street sign. They are intermixed with an assortment of other mid-century style posts – mostly octagonal – and newer reproduction bishop’s crooks installed closest to Grand Army Plaza

    As an architect I have always liked the Deskeys because the slots were such an elegant and ingenious way to accommodate the luminaire arm. And, the proportions of the overall street light was pleasing.

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