by Kevin Walsh

As many who read Forgotten NY regularly know I’m a big lamppost buff. I can spot different styles and can even identify the dates of installation by subtle differences seen on the poles themselves.

Case in point, the dominant NYC lamppost style for the past 60 years has been tall, 20 or 25-foot high poles that have octagonal, or 8-sided, shafts. If you looked straight down one of these poles, it would appear to be an octagon in two dimensions. They’re usually painted silver or gray but in Central Park, they’re green and in downtown Brooklyn on some streets, black. For the past 60 years or so, they have carried straight masts or “cobra neck” shafts, with tall, curving masts. Officially they are called Type 8S, or 8T when doubled up — Single or Twin.

They first appeared in 1950. But in the early 50s, they looked different than now. Most carried curved, bracketed masts like the one you see here. In addition, the finial at the top of the pole was small and close-fitting. In later years, these finials got a bit wider. They originally carried incandescent Westinghouse AK-10 “cuplights.” The other main incandescent NYC fixtures, “bells” and “gumballs” were apparently incompatible with the new posts. The Type 8s have carried various evolutions of fixtures since then, from mercury to sodium to LED.

In the late 50s, these curved masts began to lose out to straight masts. Then, in the early 60s, the cobra necks arrived, as well as the Donald Deskey slotted poles, a different genus completely.

The original “curves” have nearly disappeared from NYC streets. I’d say about 50 examples are left around town; short “dwarf” versions can be found under elevated trains, while there’s a pair at the corner of Fairfield Avenue and West 232nd in Spuyten Duyvil, seen here. Lexington Avenue has a collection on the west side of the street between West 97th and 103rd. Otherwise there are few strongholds anymore for these veterans.

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


1 comment

spinetingler June 27, 2019 - 10:22 am

After all these years, I still come here for the lamposts.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.