Pictured here, at 43rd Avenue and 159th Street, my former address in eastern Flushing, are new and old methods of indicating a fire alarm is nearby. On the bottom is the old method of mounting the indicator lamp, on a scrolled mast. In the early 20th Century, these were used to mount streetlamps on telephone poles, when they were plain incandescent bulbs diffused by radially-crinkled covers. They were seen in the outer boroughs by the thousands.
I’d like to find out the evolution of these masts, for when the transition was made from regular street lighting to holding the orange fire alarm lamp indicators. Until the 1960s, the orange plastic reflector was globe-shaped, but then became cylindrical. Fairly early on, they were supplanted by the short J-shaped bracket most often seen today. For the last decade, the city has no longer services these brackets. We can see the newest method, a small red cylinder, mounted on top of the LED, or Light Emitting Diode lamp, at the top.
I’ve made a study — because who else would — of where these older scrolled brackets can be found. They tend to turn up in bunches. There are some strongholds in eastern Flushing, the Pelham Parkway area in the Bronx, and formerly, Bath Beach, Brooklyn. More seem to be grandfathered out every year.
There are also shorter versions scattered around town. The city does not seem to have had a rhyme or reason where to use the shorter or longer versions, though; some were used on elevated train pillars. For the past few decades, they have all been seen on telephone poles.