5th AVENUE TWIN, 1999

by Kevin Walsh

March 2019 marks Forgotten New York’s 20th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve re-scanned about 150 key images from the early days of FNY from 35MM prints. In the early days, when people including me were accessing FNY with dial-up modems, I had to save photos really small — in some cases, just 4″ across. I couldn’t find all those early photos — I think I foolishly discarded some along the way — but all month, and into the spring, I’ll be picking out some and showing the newly scanned versions.

I pointed the camera to the top of a surviving 5th Avenue Twin in 1999 since I noticed that both of the Westinghouse AK-10 lamp fixtures were “dayburning” or turned on after sunrise. Both were still fitted with simple incandescent bulbs. The city’s streets, as well as its subways, were once awash with incandescent light. In the 1960s, the Transit Authority began to phase out the use of incandescents in subway stations, installing the familiar fluorescent tube lamps that are still used in most cases today. However, as late as the 1980s, there were still some holdout stations with incandescents — I remember them on the IND Crosstown (the G train).

Mercury bulbs burning greenish-white took over NYC streets beginning around 1960, followed in the 1970s by yellow sodium and then in the 2010s by bright white LEDs. This particular Twin is a second-generation 5th Avenue Twin design and was likely installed in the 1920s. The post has gone through a number of different luminaires, from pendants with globes, to Bell fixtures installed around 1940, to these Westy “cuplights” from the late 1940s.

I haven’t been by the post at night so I don’t know if both lamps still light up, but I do know one of the glass reflector bowls has gone. I’m just glad the post is still there.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”


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