Inwood by Gaslight: A Relic of a Bygone Era

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One of two surviving gas lampposts in New York City. (Corner of Broadway and West 211th Street)
One of two surviving gas lampposts in New York City. (Corner of Broadway and West 211th Street)

Hiding in plain sight on the corner of Broadway and West 211th Street stands a relic of a bygone era when the glow of gaslight illuminated the streets of New York.

One of two surviving gas lampposts in New York City. (Corner of Broadway and West 211th Street)
One of two surviving gas lampposts in New York City. (Corner of Broadway and West 211th Street)

The cast iron post is one of only two known to survive in the City of New York—the other sits at the corner of Patchin Place in Greenwich Village.

The post design,” according to a 1997 Landmarks Preservation Commission report, “that became standard for gas lights was introduced around 1860. Its simple, fluted, eight-foot base and shaft were topped with a short, horizontal bar used as a ladder rest and surmounted by an eight-paned, polygonal lantern, or luminaire.”

Broadway circa 1915.  Note that the West 211th Street post remains as others have been replaced.  (NYHS)
Broadway circa 1915. Note that the West 211th Street post remains as others have been replaced. (NYHS)

Around 1913 the city began replacing nearly 45,000 of the old gas lamps with newly engineered electric lamps. One by one, block after block, city engineers removed the old gas posts.

West 211th Street lamppost in 1925 photo. (NYHS)
West 211th Street lamppost in 1925 photo. (NYHS)

But somehow the Inwood lamppost survived.

West 211th Street lamppost repurposed as a street sign in 1925 photo. (NYHS)
West 211th Street lamppost repurposed as a street sign in 1925 photo. (NYHS)

A study of old photographs reveals that the West 211th Street was repurposed as a street sign and thus escaped the march of progress.

Other examples of old area gas lamps

Dyckman House, circa 1890's. Photo by James Reuel Smith, NYHS.
Dyckman House, circa 1890’s. Photo by James Reuel Smith, NYHS.
The Dyckman House, Ernest Lawson, 1913.
The Dyckman House, Ernest Lawson, 1913.
Seaman Drake arch in 1911 postcard. Note the highlighted gas lamp.
Seaman Drake arch in 1911 postcard. Note the highlighted gas lamp.
West 225th Street and Broadway, 1903. NYHS
West 225th Street and Broadway, 1903. NYHS
West 225th Street and Broadway, 1906. NYHS.
West 225th Street and Broadway, 1906. NYHS.
Lost Inwood Amazon link

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