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Old Posted Jul 17, 2012, 1:44 PM
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MichaelRyerson MichaelRyerson is offline
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Location: Houston, Texas
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Let There Be Light...

'There had been a time in Los Angeles, (over) a century ago, when a scattering of dimly lit gas lanterns, hanging from an occasional front porch, were the only traces of light on the otherwise darkened city streets. By law, early residents and business owners in the small pueblo of 12,000 were required to hang a lamp outside their doorway for the first two and one half hours of every dark night, or face a penalty of $2 for the first offense and $5 for each subsequent offense.

It was a vexing time for early Angelinos who could rarely leave their homes at night without stumbling about in the dark, toting candle-burning lanterns to find their way. A rumbling began among the citizenry for universal night lighting. The need for city dwellers to be able to find their way home, to have protection from crime, and to have greater illumination for stores and properties at night created fervor of support.

The interest was intensified in 1882 when Thomas Edison put his Pearl Street Station – the first commercial central station in the world – in operation on September 4 in New York. This was the start of the electric industry as it is known today.

The Edison plant supplied its light through incandescent lamps. A similar kind of lighting, in an improved form, was proposed for Los Angeles by C. L. Howland, representing the California Electric Light Company. While numerous proposals had been made, on September 11, 1882 the City Council unanimously voted to enter into a contract with Howland to “illuminate the streets of the city with electric light.”

At the time, it was a revolutionary idea. The proposal called for Howland, at his own expense, to erect seven, 150-foot-high masts each carrying three electric lights or lamps of three thousand candle-power. The masts were to be located in the heart of the city and its settle suburbs “which would be thoroughly and satisfactorily illuminated.”' Historical notes, DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

one of first seven electric street lights, los angeles

(Early 1880s) - One of the first of seven electric street lights installed in the City of Los Angeles at Main and Commercial in 1882. Each of the 150-foot-high masts carried three electric lights of three thousand candle-power. All seven lamps and a small power plant to provide the electricity were installed by C. L. Howland (One year later, Howland and others formed the Los Angeles Electric Company).

DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

'Howland set quickly to work. He had received a deadline of December 1, 1882 to have the masts erected and electricity on. By October 25, he had purchased a lot on the corner of Alameda and Banning Streets where he proceeded to erect a brick building, 50 by 80 feet, to house the boilers, engines and the 30kw, 9.6 ampere “Brush” arc lighting equipment for supplying the electric energy. Three weeks later, by November 16, the masts were in place and soon afterwards the pole lines and wires were strung along the streets leading to the masts.

By December the only hold-up was the delayed arrival of the dynamo and lamps. In growing anticipation, the citizens anxiously awaited the moment in history when the first streetlights would illuminate the night skies of Los Angeles. That moment came on December 30, 1882 before an admiring crowd of spectators. Mayor Toberman threw a switch at twenty minutes past eight, simultaneously lighting two mast tops, one at Main and Commercial and the other at First and Hill.

An account in the Express newspaper at the time, recounted the historic event in this way: “The Main Street light burned steadily and beautifully and it cast a light similar to that of the full moon on snow. The First Street light was very unsteady, glowing at times with brilliancy and again almost fading from sight. The only complaint so far is from young couples who find no shady spots on the way home from church or theatre.”'

By the following evening, five more masts were lighted on First Street and Boyle Avenue; Avenue 22 and North Broadway; First Street and Central Avenue; Fourth Street and Grand Avenue; and Sixth and Main Streets. Historical notes DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

main and commercial streets, circa 1885

Main and Commercial Streets circa 1885, looking at the Temple Block, with Adolph Portugal's store, a site later occupied by City Hall. One of the City's first 150 foot high electric light pole can be seen. On the left is the United States Hotel.


first electric light plant, los angeles, 1883

(1883) - The first electric light plant in Los Angeles was built in 1882 by C. L. Howland (Los Angeles Electric Company) on the corner of Alameda and Banning Streets.

DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

'The project was considered so successful that before the expiration of Holland’s two year contract, he and others had formed the Los Angeles Electric Company, which besides serving streetlights, supplied arc lights for commercial establishments.

In May 1905, the first ornamental post system in the city was introduced on Broadway between First and Main Streets. This installation consisted of 135 posts each equipped with six small glass globes, enclosing 16 candle-power lamps, and one large glass globe, enclosing a 32 candle-power lamp. This system operated until 1919 when it was demolished to make way for a more modern system.' Historical notes DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

street light maintenance BP&L crew early 1920's

Would love to identify the location of this shot and find a picture of the Shell Station. It looks beautiful.

DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

street light maintenance Electric powered street light truck

I love this picture. What a perfectly logical contraption. Early 1920's

DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

street light maintenance BP&L early 1920's

The guy on the ground seems a bit casual for my money. Wonder if they drew straws.

DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

street light maintenance BP&L early 1920's, detail

It doesn't get any better from this angle. What year did OSHA come in?

DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

street light maintenance 5-ton truck circa 1935

(July 1935) – Greatly facilitating the maintenance work on street light standards, a new five-ton tower truck was placed in service June 6th by the Power Bureau’s Street Lighting section. The first painting job assigned to the truck’s crew was two-light standards on Broadway between California and Pico Streets. Here one of our distinctive 'Broadway Roses' gets a new coat of paint.

DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

street light maintenance DWP building circa 1956

Street light maintenance of what appears to be a United Metal no.1193 supporting early twin pendants. Municipal Water and Power building is seen in background.

DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

street lighting maintenance hollywood freeway

(1952) - Street lighting maintenance unit on the Hollywood Freeway. Modern-day lamplighter seen against Los Angeles' downtown skyline is James Salazar of the Street Light Maintenance section. These lights on the Hollywood Freeway don't have to be lit by hand, of course, but they do require washing and globe replacement. On ground is Joe J. Restivo. Truck with electrically operated ladder is one of four used by Street Light section. I wonder if Mr. Restivo and Mr. Salazar could have imagined we would be looking at them and thinking about their lives sixty years after what was likely a typical work day. 1952 little to no traffic on the freeway and look at that little Jeepster going by.

DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

'Let there be light...', He said, and there was light.

Last edited by MichaelRyerson; Jul 17, 2012 at 4:50 PM.
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