The bishop’s crook lamppost on Beekman Place

The bishop’s crook isn’t the only old-school style New York lamppost. But it might be the most beloved.

Named for the fanciful staff bishops carried, cast-iron bishop’s crook lampposts first hit the streets around 1900, according to a Landmarks Preservation Commission report.

“Made from a single iron casting up to the arc, or ‘crook,’ it incorporates a garland motif that wraps around the shaft,” states The Landmarks of New York.

Because bishop’s crooks are so charming, the city began putting up reproductions of cast-iron originals in 1980.

But the one on the southeast corner of East 51st Street and Beekman Place is an authentic oldie.

Beekman Place is a quiet two-block stretch in Turtle Bay lined with townhouses and stately apartment buildings. The street features bishop crook reproductions, but this one is an original, according to the LPC report, The Landmarks of New York, and The New York Times.

Amid steel and aluminum modern lampposts this old New York streetlight and dozens of others through the city continue to illuminate dark corners.

This gas lamp at the end of West Village alley Patchin Place might be the oldest in New York.

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21 Responses to “The bishop’s crook lamppost on Beekman Place”

  1. Tom B Says:

    We use to walk all the way to the East River from the Waldorf-Astoria. That area is so quiet and peaceful. I wish I knew about this gas lamp as I probably walked by it several times and not paid any attention. Thanks Ephemeral NY for pointing out another old treasure of NYC.

  2. RD Wolff Says:

    They were made back when ARTISTS designed everything, same for the ornate oval solid brass Public School doorknobs of the era too.

  3. David H Lippman Says:

    That is a Type 24 Bishop’s Crook lamppost, dating back to the turn of the last century. The actual light fixture is a replacement for the original, judging from its shape and condition. There are several different types of Type 24s, and a careful observer of castiron lampposts in New York can determine the differences almost at a glance.

    This particular model has a rarity on it…the little black holder sticking out of its side. That held the red light that let people know the lamppost held an emergency fire alarm on its base. They were also made of cast-iron, and a few of the original free-standing fire alarms still guard Manhattan’s streets here and there. I saw one at Second Avenue and 36th Street, near the Queens-Midtown Tunnel a few years back.

    The light on this entry has been removed, and likely the fire alarm is gone, too, no longer necessary in the age of cell phones.

    While all of the surviving Type 24s have landmark status, that is no guarantee of their survival, as a combination of weather and New York traffic knocks them down sporadically. One such Type 24 was the one that stood guard over Patchin Place (mentioned above) at West 10th Street for decades. A truck slammed into it, sending the lamppost into the street. That lamppost lacked the distinctive filigree of its brethren.

    It looked as if the Patchin Place/10th Street lamppost was out of the game permanently, but the nearby Jefferson Market Library was able to cart it off into its backyard, restore it, and now it stands guard over their parking lot, safe from traffic and mayhem behind a fence. The city obligingly placed a reproduction Type 24 on the intersection, in a nod to its predecessor — the torch of light has been passed to a younger brother.

    The official list of New York lampposts in 1934 catalogued hundreds of different cast-iron designs. Most of them are gone now, but the unusual single-lamp varieties were reproduced to protect City Hall, to my pleasure.

  4. Zoé Says:

    When I moved to an apartment on Sterling Place in Prospect Heights (Brooklyn) in 87 I was amazed to see working antique gas street lamps – still fed w/ gas. Some on the same street had been outfitted w/ electric lights. (I guess as various gas lines/pipes needed replacing?). I wonder if that is still the case 30 years on.

    Is there an easy way to tell which of the kind mentioned in this post are antique & which repro?

    • David H Lippman Says:

      The repro lampposts are NOT made of cast-iron, but whatever plastic form they use nowadays for lampposts. They just LOOK like the originals. The originals come in different variations of the Type 24. Best way to check…the repros have that shiny plastic look and their bases have no door to hold the astronomical clock that told the lampposts when to turn on and off in the days before light cells. The old lampposts have that door, and in most cases, a fancy seal on them. The clocks are mostly long gone, and the old ones have little cells on them, which are more efficient.

      • Zoé Says:

        Thanks. That’s interesting about the clocks & the plastic. It’s like giant Toy Train Town elements (the plastic lampposts). Like the Twilight Zone episode where the couple wakes up to find out they have been taken – by a giant alien child – to a toy replica of their town. Don’t lean against any trees People!

      • David H Lippman Says:

        I remember that Twilight Zone episode, and felt really bad for that couple on the run.

      • Zoé Says:

        Lol. I was on a community blog of my childhood hometown in Fairfield County (CT Shore an hour from NYC) w/ some other completely ineffective preservation warriors; trying to prevent yet another ancient house from being torn down & I brought up that Twilight Zone episode.

        Because 18th c. Colonials & 19th c. Federal & Victorian homes & early 20th c. Storybook homes are replaced almost daily w/ giant plastic Barbie houses. (There is a ‘Teardown of the Day’ page on the online news website for the town). McMansions w/ 10 bedrooms & 10 baths. (Because every infant needs their own bath now!).

        It got REALLY heated. Lol – guess who lived in our little beach town for awhile? Rod Sterling. He lived there when a LOT of farmland & woods were being developed for people’s post WWII dream houses; so he probably came up w/ the concept for that episode whilst witnessing this very rural place morph into a toy train town set in places. (My brother built an enormous one in our cellar by the way. With working everything & matchbox cars to scale).

        There are a few Twilight Zone episodes which refer to the town. A lot of TV shows did then; including I Love Lucy & Bewitched – as did a few earlier Silver Screen films & later films (Stepford Wives) & even more recent films. Due to all the screenwriters who lived in town. Prior to the internet the proximity to NYC was important.

        Lol – we managed to turn this into another film thread…

      • David H Lippman Says:

        That might explain why Rod Serling came up with that plotline! Thanks for sharing that!

      • Zoé Says:

        *Rod Serling – not “Sterling”…

  5. John Green Says:

    Anyone know if the Bishop at Broome and (the former) Sheriff still stands?

  6. A hidden city park named for a murdered activist | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] to the far end of East 51st Street, past the bishop’s crook lamppost of lovely Beekman Place, and you’ll find yourself at a dead end blocked off by a cast iron […]

  7. A hidden city park named for a murdered activist ⋆ New York city blog Says:

    […] to the far end of East 51st Street, past the bishop’s crook lamppost of lovely Beekman Place, and you’ll find yourself at a dead end blocked off by a cast iron […]

  8. A hidden city park named for a murdered activist | News for New Yorkers Says:

    […] to the far end of East 51st Street, past the bishop’s crook lamppost of lovely Beekman Place, and you’ll find yourself at a dead end blocked off by a cast iron […]

  9. A hidden city park named for a murdered activist | Real Estate Marketplace Says:

    […] to the far end of East 51st Street, past the bishop’s crook lamppost of lovely Beekman Place, and you’ll find yourself at a dead end blocked off by a cast iron […]

  10. The loveliest lamppost in New York is in Harlem | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] New York has lots of landmarked buildings. But a landmarked lamppost? […]

    • Kiwiwriter Says:

      The magic words: cast-iron beauty.

      Most of them met the wrecking ball for two reasons:

      1. As you see, they don’t extend far into the intersection. That was an illumination problem until sodium-vapor replaced mercury-vapor.

      2. The original cast-iron lampposts are 18 feet tall. The federal Department of Transportation says they need to be a minimum of 30 feet tall, for safety reasons.

      The fiberglass replacements are all 30 feet tall, and have sodium-vapor lights, to comply with Washington’s strictures.

      Some of the original lampposts have had their lamps replaces with Holophane sodium-vapor lamps, which lack the style of the cast-iron lights. They are similar to those sold to private homes and organizations to illuminate their yards or warehouse areas. The best lamppost in Manhattan, at Hamilton Place and Amsterdam Avenue, an ornate doubleheader from about 1904, has two such lamps.

      “When the lights go on again…all over the world..”

  11. Why Manhattan has two streets named Beekman | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] a curiosity: Beekman. Beekman Street lies south of City Hall near the South Street Seaport, while Beekman Place is a residential enclave between 49th and 51st Streets by the East […]

  12. Daniel Cronin Says:

    Whilst in high school in the mid 60s, I recall writing to the city complaining about the removal of the beautiful bishops crook and twin lamps. I am glad to see that the city has repented at this late day and vindicated me. When I visit NY I keep a sharp look out for reborn lamps…so much more elegant than the aptly named “cobra heads!”

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