The Lost Type 40S lamppost: a mystery and a resolution

by Kevin Walsh

What you see in Forgotten NY’s Lampposts category is the merest scratch on a vast surface, a minuscule sampler of the manifold varieties of lampposts that have been used on NYC streets from the early gaslights to the new Matrix-era curved overlords of Fulton Street in Brooklyn (mark my words, they will someday gain sentience and wreak havoc during their conquest of the North American continent).

In the excellent Places That Are No More (the link works for those of you in The Facebook) I spotted a relatively recent post which I had never seen or heard about…

This photo was taken after 1940 at the SW corner of Greenpoint Avenue and the newly constructed Queens Midtown Expressway, which opened that year between the QM Tunnel and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. St. Raphael’s Church, the tallest structure in the Blissville-Sunnyside area, dominates the background. I provided an approximate look at the corner these days, though Google Street View does not show the exact same angle.

I was initially stumped about the lamppost at the left side of the photo. It appeared to be a short-armed version of the Triborough Bridge post (which has recently had a revival in Astoria) but it wasn’t quite the same. The only thing to do in that case is consult Bob Mulero, the King of NYC Lampposts, who provided me with a spec sheet:

The post in question was officially known as a Type 40S single arm (there was apparently a Twin version as well at some time). It wasn’t the same as the official Triborough single arm post shown at right — a closer look will show some key differences. The bracket on the Type 40S was deeper, the finial was shorter, and the top ‘tier’ on the base was much shorter. And, note the spire on the spec sheet photo on the left — it resembles St. Raphael’s an awful lot.

In the Fab Forties it appeared that the Triboro post — and its kissin ‘ cousin the Type 40 — would dominate expressway and parkways for decades to come. But it was not to be. Instead, it was the Type 41, shown here in its Single arm variety at LaGuardia Airport and its rarer wall mast version shown at right, that enjoyed the big takeover. It was the dominant highway post until the late 50s and early 1960s, when a combination of cylindrical shafted poles and slotted-shaft Deskey posts took over.