by Kevin Walsh

Here’s an extraordinary shot I never thought I’d see from 1969: a surviving under-the-El castiron lamppost that somehow made it all the way to 1969 at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and East 156th Street in Melrose, Bronx.

In the early 20th Century, when castiron lampposts that held incandescent lights were going up all over NYC, the mainstays were longarmed Corvingtons, that went on wider streets, and Bishop Crooks and Type Fs, which went on the narrower side streets. Brooklyn got its own separate lamppost designs. And then there were the streets that were shadowed by elevated trains. Some of these streets got pendant lamps that were suspended from the el structure, while others got a short-armed version with scrollwork, the type shown here.

Occasionally, these lamps had to be constructed with S-shaped curves in their masts so they could get around el pillars and staircases, as was the case here. In the 1950s, most of these classics were replaced with Dwarf versions of octagonal-shafted posts that at first carried incandescents and them greenish-white mercury lamps manufactured by Westinghouse and GE.

On this corner, though, the Department of Traffic (it became the Department of Transportation in the late 1970s) decided to keep a castiron in place long after its brothers had been replaced. Indeed on the other corner, a Bishop Crook post was still in place. Shortly after the photo was taken, a regulation mercury light was installed, and the El itself was razed in 1973, and its collection of Dwarf poles shortly thereafter.

In all my years of lamppost hunting that goes back to when I was a kid in Bay Ridge, I never saw one of these in the wild!

Third Avenue and East 156th in 2018. Few remember there was ever an elevated train here.

1969 photo: Facebook group, The Late Great BRONX 3rd Avenue El

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



Earthdog July 6, 2019 - 8:13 am

It looks like the lighting contractors may have missed this one by accident when the cast-iron poles were being replaced by aluminum octagon posts in the early 60s. I’ve noticed this happens whenever there’s a big push to replace streetlamps and fixtures en-masse (e.g the scattered mercury or older HPS fixtures that remain hiding in plain sight). Even today, it’s not uncommon to find HPS fixtures scattered here & there even after the big LED conversion. I’m guessing this has more to do with the contractor having to complete the job on schedule for the financial incentive or avoiding a penalty.

Andy July 6, 2019 - 11:39 am

According to Wikipedia, which in turn cites historian Stan Fischler as its [very reliable] source, this stretch of the Third Avenue El opened in 1887. By 1891 it reached Tremont Avenue; in 1901 it reached Fordham Road. The line north of 149th Street was triple-tracked in 1916 as part of the Dual Contracts work. In 1952 service south of 149th Street was restricted to weekdays between 6 AM and 7 PM. At other times passengers to and from Manhattan had to transfer at 149th Street to Lexington and 7th Ave. IRT trains (today’s #2 and #5 lines). In 1955 the 149th Street transfer became mandatory at all times, because the line was razed south of 149th. That station remained a busy transfer point right up to the end of the el in 1973.

In the early 1970s I was on the faculty at Morris High School and occasionally used the Third Ave. El to reach the school using the 166th St. Station. Four car R12 consists were used.


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