About a month ago I got a question about the original light fixtures in the cloisters in front of Mech Lab. With typical overconfidence I thought it would be a snap. I was quite wrong about that.
Still, after the initial disaster I pretty quickly found a photo of the building entrance with a clear shot of a hanging light, one of only five that were originally installed:
This, however, was not the end of the story. The next problem was two-fold: what happened to them (in their place we installed some deeply unattractive flush mounts) and (get this!) where did we buy them back in 1912?
Unexpectedly the second question was the easier one. Edgar Odell Lovett’s Presidential Papers contain quite a bit of documentation of the construction of the original buildings and there I discovered that the specs called for the light fixtures to be purchased from “Westinghouse Electric–Hunter Mfg. Co.” I learned long ago, though, not to stop until I read everything in the file. Sure enough, there was a change order dated June 5, 1912 (only four months before the Formal Opening) instructing our electrical contractor, F.E. Newbery Electric Company of St. Louis, to instead purchase the Mech Lab light fixtures from the Pettingell-Andrews Company in Boston. I wasn’t even surprised to find one of their catalogs on-line. It’s from 1924 but you get the general idea.
So what became of these fixtures? I went down so many blind alleys and through so many contortions in this process that I can’t possibly explain it so I’ll just skip to the end. I’m fairly sure that they are now hanging on the Sewall side of the Lovett Hall cloisters. First take a look at this:
Those are the fixtures that hang in front of the old Physics Building. The same fixtures wrap around the corner and hang in front of the north side of Lovett. Note the fancy decorative top, which is identical in both places:
But on the other side of the sallyport, much to my surprise I found these:
Not the same at all, not even close, but from what I can tell they do look quite like the one in today’s first photo. There are only four of them which makes me suspect that one was hopelessly broken somewhere along the line.
If you turn this corner, by the way, and look at what’s in front of Sewall you will find these, which totally fulfilled my expectation that they would be bland:
I’m reasonably confident that this is correct but I’m also desperately missing Big John Laxen, who would have laughed at my questions and told me the whole story, which is almost certainly a ridiculous tale involving cost-cutting measures.
To add to the puzzle, do you think the cloister outside the Chemistry Lecture Hall also had hanging lights, rather than the rather pedestrian flush mount fixtures that it has today?
Ooof. That’s a tough one.
I’ll see what I can do.
Brava!!!!! Really enjoyed your research report on the lights.
Carolyn E. Mitchell
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