Illuminating the Past

Article by Frank A. Windes, Winnetka Village Engineer
Reprinted from an article published in the Winnetka Talk, March 8, 1930
Appeared in Gazette: Summer 1995

With the coming of summer, we all appreciate extended hours of daylight. Over 100 years ago longer days were even more welcome because…

“There were no street lights in the village in 1880. On dark nights the careful pedestrian carried his well-filled coal oil lantern. Every family had three or four such lanterns ready for use. They were carried to church, to the depot or whenever a trip was made after dark.

About 1880 the Village installed a few street lights. They were made of turned eight-foot cedar posts with a four-sided glass lantern set on top. A small coal oil lamp inside the lantern furnished the light. The village lamplighter was Ole Madson, father of Mrs. Bert Blow and Mrs. Anna Johnson. He carried a small, round stick which he stuck into a hole about three feet from the ground, and on which he stood to light the lamp. In order to properly celebrate the Fourth of July, small boys would put a charge of powder and fuse in this hole and in one blast a ‘beautiful village lamp post’ would be shattered.

The council spent many long hours of debate when a petition came up for another cedar post and light, as to where the best place would be to put it. In 1899 these oil lamps were outgrown and the present electric street lamps were installed.”

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