by Kevin Walsh

WHAT could be one of the two last gaslight posts on public Manhattan streets can be found here, at Broadway and West 211th Street. The other one is on Patchin Place in Greenwich Village (see below). However, old photos reveal that these posts, in addition to holding gaslight fixtures, could also carry street signs and mailboxes. The only older photos I have reveal street signs on this post. However, gaslamps have not been commonly used on NYC streets since the early 1910s, so this pole may have originally carried a gaslamp and later, street signage.

Gaslamps first began to appear in NYC streets in the 1820s and were installed by two companies, The New York Gaslight Company and Manhattan Gas Light Company, which operated in two different parts of town, one below Grand Street and one above. They received light from gas lines below the street, but had to be turned on and off by lamplighters each morning and night. The one seen here was likely installed in the 1860s when Broadway was still known as Kingsbridge Road and the street grid and accompanying homes had not been built. However, the nearby Dyckman Farmhouse, dating from the colonial era, was already in place.

The gaslamp at the end of the dead end Patchin Place in Greenwich Village has long since been converted to electricity and received a different post top fixture than it had when it was a gaslamp. The post and ladder rest crossbar, though, are most likely original.

NYC’s King of Lampposts Bob Mulero has been merrily snapping away since 1978 and found a couple of gaslight stumps back then, one beside a high-pressure fire hydrant at Pearl Street and Coenties Alley. The post was surviving intact when tax photographers in 1940 found it. Note the el over Pearl Street, which survived until 1942.

Here’s another gaslight base that Bob found at Park Avenue and East 33rd. Long gone these days. The iron forger M.J. Drummond’s name is embossed on the base.

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lamont gary June 14, 2022 - 12:23 am

yo why you gaslightin’ me, dawg?

redstaterefugee June 14, 2022 - 10:42 am

Because NY’s media/political class can’t handle the truth. With Indian Point decommissioned, the only light left is gaslight.

Joe+Brennan June 14, 2022 - 10:17 am

We have gaslights in South Orange NJ that look the same as those from the crossbar down. On a walk one day I met and spoke with the man with the ladder that gets narrow at the top who goes up to replace burned-out mantles. He told me he cares for the ones in Glen Ridge too, the other hold-out town. It seems the poles are still manufactured somewhere, because once in a while an errant vehicle hits one and breaks it, and a replacement is installed a few days later. We do not have lamplighters. Instead the gas flow is reduced centrally during daylight hours and increased at night. This must mean the underground distribution pipes are separate from those running to houses.

chris June 14, 2022 - 12:01 pm

All the gaslamp on Patchin Place needs is one of those drunk dudes in
top hat and tails wrapped around it singing “How dry I am…(Hiccup!)”

Peter June 14, 2022 - 3:04 pm

Gaslights did not use natural gas but coal gas, sometimes called town gas, produced by heating coal.

Tom+M June 15, 2022 - 8:14 pm

Natural gas was replacing Manufactured gas in the 50’s. Lamp services were basically extinct by then but they would have used natural gas if they were still around. Every now & then an abandoned lamp service that was never completely cut off would be found

ira June 14, 2022 - 8:59 pm

Any Arc Lamps left?

Anonymous June 17, 2022 - 7:15 pm

Excellent article


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