WHEELIE DEMISE, Central Park

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In the past I have chronicled the remaining “Wheelie” stoplights in New York City — those long-armed castiron stoplights outwardly resembling Corvington lampposts, but instead of the usual inner scrollwork, the Wheelies incorporated a spoked wheel that resembled the style automobiles were using in 1924, when the first Wheelie was installed. At first, one per corner was enough, and they were usually found at only the busier intersections. Other corners, if they got stoplights at all, got the diminutive “Olive” style stoplights, positioned catercorner to each other.

The title card shows one of the pair that grace Park Avenue and East 46th Street, at the viaduct that wraps around Grand Central Terminal. By Landmarks law, they cannot be removed. However the Department of Transportation removed their stoplights and placed them on regulation guy-wired stoplights, which have a longer reach. (Those stoplights first appeared on NYC streets in the mid-1950s.)

 

This trio of shots by Matt Weber, Bob Mulero and me, shows the gradual demise of a Wheelie at West 139th Street and Edgecombe Avenue in Harlem. It’s now completely extinct.

A few select Wheelies continued with their original function into the 1980s, but they were extreme rarities. We’ll see one below that lasted into the 2000s.

 

A photo from the 1940s at Woodside Avenue and 62nd Street in Queens.

 

Around town, some Wheelies found work even after their shafts were chopped off, such as this one in Harlem.

 

The final “working” Wheelie was on the 86th Street Transverse Road in Central Park, at a former stables that had been transformed into a park police stationhouse. It was truly a relic of the past, and unusual to boot, as it was shorter in stature than most. However, the stationhouse was recently overhauled and renovated…

 

…and so was the Wheelie. It was given a new paint job, but its stoplight has been removed, and a streetlamp luminaire has replaced it. It may be the first Wheelie post to ever carry a streetlamp. photo: Bob Mulero

But it just ain’t the same.

8/14/13





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3 Responses to WHEELIE DEMISE, Central Park

  1. Walt Gosden says:

    Yes, “it just ain’t the same” , but at least this Wheelie didn’t get chopped off, or removed. It got repainted, and still stands. They are absolutely beautiful, and for old car guys like me who have owned /collected cars of the same era of the lamps are an extra special treat. Thanks very much, as always for your wonderful photos and information.

  2. Sable says:

    It feels very sad to lose something so beautiful, and with a past to boot. Very much like the passing of a person, and in many ways, the Wheelie has been touched by many who were part of the manufacturing of this now classic piece of history.

    I’m sure there is someone somewhere who would like to comment with a logical reason for why we should recycle these works of art into oblivion, however, I am happy to know these works of art still “live” among us, at least the lucky residents of certain neighborhoods in NYC.

    Thanks for being thoughtful enough to share these pictures.

  3. Kiwiwriter says:

    So the “Wheelies” at 46th and Park no longer hold traffic lights…they’re just standing guard over the Helmsley Building.

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