Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gas Street Lamps in the French Quarter, A Brief History

Blogger's Note: Try taking a step through the French Quarter without catching a glimpse of this iconic copper lamp and you will find it simply cannot be done.  This is the history of how the traditional gaslight came to the French Quarter.

From the Storyville District Nola website:

"Under the early French and Spanish dominion no attempt whatsoever was made to light New Orleans, but all persons in the streets at night were required to carry lanterns to prevent collisions and accidents.  The first city lighting was done in 1792, when Governer Carondelet established eighty street lamps.  In 1824, the American Theater was lit with gas by its owner, Mr. James Caldwell, this being the first time that gas was seen in New Orleans.  Encouraged by his success, Mr. Caldwell, in 1834, organized the New Orleans Gas Light and Banking Company, with a capital of $300,000, which was subsequently increased to $600,000 in a charter with the City of New Orleans. 

The charter gave the city the right to purchase the works at the end of forty years.  When the charter expired, in 1875, a consolidation was effected with a new company which had secured a charter from the Legislature and which was known as the Crescent City Company.  This would last fifty years, extending the charter to 1925.

The illumination of the streets was by gas until 1887, when a contract was made for lighting by electricity for the first, second, third, and fourth municipal districts.  On the expiration of the contract with the Jefferson City Gas Light Company in 1899, the sixth and seventh municipal districts were illuminated by electricity instead of gas as formerly' and the city in 1900 used electricity wholly."