by Kevin Walsh

Looking east on Sutter Avenue from Van Siclen Avenue in 1966, I note from Google Earth that just about everything in this photo has now vanished. The brick apartment/storefronts have been replaced by tract housing.

Of course this photo is notable for depicting one of the few remaining “Wheelie” stoplights that still remained by the mid-1960s; most of them had been replaced at busier corners by thick-shafted, guy wired stoplights that as a rule use three-light stoplights, red, amber and green.

The “Wheelies”, so called for their ironwork shaped as oldtime car wheels with spokes, were introduced in 1924, when automobiles were getting well established and wider streets needed stoplights that approaching traffic could spot from a distance. The vast majority of NYC streets, two small “Olive” catercorner stoplights were sufficient to handle most traffic.

Larger guy-wired stoplights (whose manufacturer or official name I still don’t know) began to appear in the 1950s and within a few years, most of the Wheelies were outmoded.

This is one of the few photos that shows the Ruleta stoplight mounted on a Wheelie painted yellow. By the mid-60s most NYC stoplights had acquired a yellow paint job, but most of the Wheelies had been removed.

This corner no longer has stoplights, controlled instead by stop signs.

Photo courtesy Steven Gembara



ExLIer October 5, 2014 - 2:26 pm

Must. Have. “After” picture.!

[To Google Street-view I go!]

What we really could use, is an intermediate pic of that corner, from the late 70’s-late 80’s, when it was a burnt-out mess. (I used to take the subway from Astoria, and get out and go exploring that area in the late 70’s/early 80’s -I was the only white guy you’d ever see walking there, then. I must’ve been crazy! But at least I never took drugs!)

Francis October 9, 2015 - 1:27 pm

The signal in the picture may be a GE Novalux, rather than a Ruleta. The difference between the two is very subtle, especially at a distance. Starting in the 50’s, the more modern-looking signals that were being installed in NYC were made by Marbelite.


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