Visiting All Our Friends at L.A.'s Bureau of Street Lighting... Vermonica, Air Raid Siren No. 184 and the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge Lamps

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Gentle reader,

Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love.

We recently trekked out to the Bureau of Street Lighting yard in East Hollywood to hang out with some of our favorite historic metal objects, which have just recently become neighbors.

Running along the sidewalk where you can visit any time is Vermonica, Sheila Klein’s urban candelabra of vintage streetlights created to light L.A.’s way after the 1992 uprising. Removed with no notice to the artist or public in 2017, Vermonica (named for her location at Vermont and Santa Monica) was reinstalled half a block east in 2020 and is now a protected part of the civic art collection. This happened in large part because we just kept pestering the city to do the right thing. We love her!

Behind the fence that acts as Vermonica’s skirt are hundreds of vintage poles and fixtures, safely stored so that they can be tapped to replace lost or failing infrastructure across the city. If you dig this kind of thing, we did a webinar all about L.A.’s wonderful variety of streetlights.

And because Bureau of Street Lighting is a nimble city agency with a love of history, it currently houses Air Raid Siren No. 184, a listed cultural resource that toppled over onto private property in South Los Angeles last month. When BSL heard that we were trying to help the community non-profit Project 43 Team Post Centers get the giant thing out of their parking lot, they sent a crew to pick it up.

We were in East Hollywood to meet Lambert Geissenger, preservation architect for the City of Los Angeles, to brief him about the drama of the fallen siren, and our discussions with Council District 8 staff members and cold war historians about options for how the slightly battered relic might be returned to the community that it so long protected.

We also talked about the need for the city to take some responsibility for the decommissioned sirens, beyond just listing them on Survey L.A. Because even though Air Raid Siren No. 184 was packed with birds’ nests and could no longer send out a piercing warning tone, in failing it let us know there’s a threat we all need to take seriously.

And an unexpected treat was a chance to see the surviving bronze poles from the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, removed to protect them from a ring of metal thieves that methodically stripped the bridge last fall. These lovely standards will stay in the yard until the bridge undergoes a major renovation, to include replicas of the stolen lamps and, we trust, a new type of bolt housing to make them much harder to steal.

Here’s a map showing the location of all our heavy metal friends that live in the streetlight yard. And we hope you’ll get a chance to visit yourself one day. Because as we mention in the video, the pandemic kept Sheila Klein from hosting a proper celebration for Vermonica’s reinstallation, and that’s a preservation party we know you won’t want to miss.

Until then, we hope you enjoy this virtual visit to the Bureau of Street Lighting, where some of the coolest relics of Los Angeles infrastructure are tucked up tight awaiting their return to the streetscape where they belong.

yours for Los Angeles,

Kim & Richard

Esotouric

Psst… If you’d like to support our efforts to be the voice of places worth preserving, we have a tip jar and a subscriber edition of this newsletter, vintage Los Angeles webinars available on demand, and a souvenir shop you can browse in. Or just share this link with other people who care.


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