Sometimes I get poked fun of for paying such close attention to minutiae like this, but I pride myself in the knowledge that I’m one of a handful of people in NYC that do pay attention to stuff like this. I may be the one person in NYC who has noticed the nuances of fire alarm indicator lamps over the years.
Such illuminators have taken multiple forms over the years. They used to be mounted on a shaft atop the alarm themselves, and you still see a few examples of this around town. Since the 1910s, though, they’ve tended to be mounted on brackets of ever-simplifying design, either attached to lamppost shafts, or in the case of lamps mounted on telephone poles, to the lamp shafts. They have also been mounted atop the luminaires themselves, a practice that has been returning lately with the small red “top hat” lamps, that are usually drowned out by the bright streetlamp directly below them.
In the early years, fire alarm indicator lamps were made of red glass. This evolved into orange plastic over the years, with the lightbulb within imparting a soft orange glow. In the 1940s, cylindrical luminaires with arched tops became more and more frequently installed, eventually wiping out the globes.
When I first moved to fab Flushing in 1993, I spotted, to my jaw-gaping amazement, a globular fire alarm indicator mounted on a lamp at 45th Avenue and 158th Street. This was big. But this was also a few years before I carried a camera everywhere and recorded every Forgotten object in sight, so the “globe” went unphotographed. It was duly removed 5 years after I saw it, and now not only is it Forgotten, it’s forgotten.
However: I have also noted variances in the cylindrical indicators. While most are lengthy and a red-orange color, there are a relatively small number around town that are shorter and are orange-yellow. The one pictured here, at Dry Harbor Road and 84th Street in the Middle Village-Rego Park area, is one of the orange-yellow shorter ones.
No doubt the Department of Transportation has, or had, catalog numbers that corresponded to these. But I’m not privy.