by Kevin Walsh

WAY back in the Easy 80s, NYC’s King of Lampposts, Bob Mulero, came across this hybrid gem on a street corner in Harlem. It appears that the top half of a Corvington lamppost had been hacked off and a modern red, amber and green stoplight had been stuck in its place. That’s sort of what happened, but not quite.

In the mid-20s, auto traffic had gotten so busy that the NYPD needed a way to control it at major intersections. On 5th Avenue in NYC, large manned towers appeared in the center of the street, and the red and green sequences were controlled manually. These proved expensive and hard to maintain.

Enter the Wheelie. At hundreds of intersections around town, large poles that were knockoffs of castiron longarmed Corvington streetlamps appeared, but in place of the lamp, a two-color stoplight was in its place. In the scrollwork, an automobile wheel was used, hence my name (which has gained general acceptance), “Wheelies.” The Wheelies were common into the 1950s when they were largely replaced by the heavy, guy wired stoplights we have today; but some Wheelies made it all the way to the 1980s, with the last working ones at Park Avenue and East 46th and on the 86th Street Central Park Transverse Road recently decommissioned.

In this case, the top half of the Wheelie was removed and a modern three color stoplight affixed in its place. Of course, it’s long gone from that street corner today.

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.



George Gauthier July 18, 2022 - 11:32 pm

I saw in a YouTube video that some city planners are promoting a return to stop lights planted on street corners instead of hung over the roadway. The placement draws the drivers’ attention to pedestrians standing at the corner. With overhead stop lights, drivers are oblivious to pedestrians trying to get across.

Alan July 19, 2022 - 8:00 am

An interesting Wheelie story. Years ago, on Pitkin Av. in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Wheelies were located at intersections every four or five (short) blocks or so. The timing of all these Wheelies were identical – all turned red simultaneously and green simultaneously. The in-between intersections had no traffic lights but had signs “Stop here on red.” So the driver had to stare ahead for the next Wheelie in the sequence ensuring it was green and could safely proceed. The side streets at these non-traffic light intersections also had a “Stop here on red” sign and arrows pointing left of right. So the driver on the side streets had to look left or right along Pitkin Av. for the nearest Wheelie. Of course, the Wheelie had to show red in order for side street traffic to safely proceed. Very weird. I wonder how many accidents this caused?

Bill July 19, 2022 - 7:53 pm

That sign partly obscured by foliage looks like it says “CHOP SUEY.”


Leave a Comment

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