Shedding some light on 'historic' street fixtures

Neighborhoods' desires for 'faux' period lighting yield new city policy

To read this article in its entirety, see the January 2003 Midtown Messenger. To read the HP Office's draft report and recommended policy, click the links at right. To give input to the city on the policy, call 261-8699, e-mail, or attend the Feb. 10 meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission (Historic City Hall, Washington St. and First Ave., 2nd Floor, 4:30 p.m.).

When historic neighborhoods begin thinking of enhancing their lighting, the "acorn" light is often what they at first think they want. However, that's a problem, according to both city and state historic preservation (HP) officials.


Supplemental Documents

Draft Report

Street Light Images

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At present, according to city Lead Preservation Planner Kevin Weight, the only historic districts with extant original lighting are Encanto-Palmcroft and Ashland Place. "From what I understand there are actually a couple of different fixtures in Encanto and the acorn is similar to one of them," Weight said. "There are some metal ones there we want to keep. Our first priority is to keep lights that are historic, and if they go away, we want to replicate them." Replicating original fixtures is one thing. But putting a style of historic light where it never was isn't kosher, Weight said. "Putting in a fake historic street light is not an appropriate thing to do. Your don't put a false sense of history in, according to the Secretary of the Interior's standards" for areas listed on the National Register of Historic Places, he said. "If you're not going to replicate what was there, or the neighborhood never had street lights originally, [you should] put in something that is more obviously new, but still compatible with the neighborhood-something of pedestrian scale, that fits in with the neighborhood in other ways."

The HP Office presented a draft report and recommendations on lighting issues to the HP Commission at its Jan. 13 meeting. The commission continued the matter to its February meeting. The timing of the report couldn't be better for some historic districts on the verge of installing street lighting-or worse, depending on their degree of attachment to a particular style of light.