by Kevin Walsh

Once again, I’m risking disaster.

The last of New York City’s old-style scrolled telephone pole lamppost shafts sits here at the remote (for New York City) corner of West 254th Street and Palisade Avenue in Riverdale. Beginning in the 1910s until they started to be phased out in the 1950s, these shafts, in long and short versions, supported lamps using incandescent bulbs; for most of its existence, this was in the form of a radial-wave diffuser lamp. Short versions were also used to hold fire alarm indicator lamps — many of those still survive, but now, none of them work since the fire alarm lamp is now mounted to the top of the main lamp, as here.

This is a reverse-scrolled shaft. As a rule the scroll was mounted underneath the shaft, but when there was a fire alarm lamp  it was mounted above the shaft. Look closely and you will see that is the case here. The plastic orange diffuser was still in place when I first encountered this lamp in the 1980s.

Why am I risking disaster? Showing nonstandard fixtures sometimes prompts quick action by the Department of Transportation, which removes the offending hardware and installs standard. I’m holding firm to my mission, which is to publicize anomalies like this.

Apologies for the blotches; I used Google Street View, which was here on a rainy day.




BobK February 27, 2016 - 6:35 pm

Except for Kevin, would any other New Yorker ever notice this odd light bracket? 🙂

PK February 28, 2016 - 10:58 am

Yes, there are others among us who would notice such things.

BobK February 29, 2016 - 5:26 pm

Indeed! I just meant to say that one needs an eagle eye to see this scroll amid all the wires, branches, and twigs in this photo. I’d never notice it.

robert dowling October 11, 2020 - 5:17 am

yes i

Gomez Toth February 29, 2016 - 4:15 pm

Excellent spotting. Thanks for also noting one of my favorite bits of Forgotten-mania: the fire alarm indicator light. In this case the alarm light (or at least the orange diffuser) seems itself to be anomalous, being a thinner and taller version than the stubbier types one normally encounters(ed).

JordanC April 17, 2016 - 7:18 pm

I spotted another one (I think) in Soundview. On Google Streetview, check out the telephone pole on the northeast corner of Soundview Ave. and Stephens Ave in the Bronx. It’s nonfunctional, with a working lamp above it. Any way to determine the era by looking at the fixture?

Kevin Walsh April 18, 2016 - 10:47 pm

That’s on a fire alarm indicator mast. Plenty of those still in place

robert dowling October 11, 2020 - 4:49 am

jordanc you are correct as i see it scroll is right side up with non funtional looks to me as a moon fixture? prob not working and standard lt above with fir box indicator lt, overall your correct.


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