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The Oldest Street Light in America

Where Is The The Oldest Street Light in America?


Turns out this question has a few answers, depending on which type you mean.


The first street lights were used in ancient Rome, where wealthy citizens had slaves to light, extinguish and watch over their oil lamps. The practice spread to the rest of Europe and in 1417, London became the first organized public street lighting system.


It was not until the late 19th century that electric street lights entered the picture. The earliest electric street lights were 150 foot high masts with eye-searing arc lamps at the top. They were useful at dockyards but were uncomfortable to use in city streets and required regular maintenance as carbon electrodes wore away. By the end of the 19th century, they were being replaced by the much more comfortable and cost-effective incandescent bulb street lights.

The Pelham Street lamp was first lit in 1805 at Newport, Rhode Island and is the location of the oldest street light in America. Pelham Street was the first street in the country to use gas-illuminated streetlights according to RhodeIsland.gov.







The first US city to use gas street lights was Baltimore, starting in 1817.[4] In 1816, artist Rembrandt Peale had demonstrated the use of gas lamps to light exhibits at the Peale Museum in Baltimore, displaying what The Federal Gazette and Daily Advertiser called "the beautiful and most brilliant light".[4]


In Cleveland, the inventor Charles Brush held a demonstration on Public Square to promote his new invention. A few years later, a town in Indiana called Wabash adopted his Brush dynamo street lights. By the turn of the 20th century, electric street lights were delivering more than 80 percent of America’s illumination.


Incandescent lighting: The first city in the United States to successfully demonstrate electric lighting was Cleveland, Ohio with 12 electric lights around the Public Square road system on 29 April 1879.


The 1930’s saw a change in street lamp design, as upright forms gave way to pendants (with teardrop-shaped lamps) attached to horizontal arms extending from the pole. Post-World War II, changes in energy and technology brought a third era of street lighting. GE’s Form 109 and 400 and Westinghouse’s OV-20 were developed as more efficient alternatives to the mercury-vapor bulbs that had become the standard. These were followed by the development of Low-Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps, which delivered superior color and efficiency to their mercury-vapor predecessors.


Finally 2006 - Present: Ann Arbor Michigan was the first metropolitan area to implement LED street lighting.


We don't install street lighting per se, and the more we research this, the less cohesive the answers seem to become. But, as lighting nerds, we love knowing the history of lighting the night in all of its forms. If you're interested in adding some night time ambience to your home, business, or even city park, in a bit more artistic and soft way, significantly less stark than the traditional streetlight has to offer, contact the landscape lighting design experts at Lume Landscape Lighting, to learn how we can bring your space to life at night. Who knows, maybe together we can come up with a lighting first right here in Denver, Colorado.



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