'Porthole' Lamps

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seanrichardryan
IDS Center
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Joined: June 3rd, 2012, 9:33 pm
Location: Merriam Park, St. Paul
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'Porthole' Lamps

Postby seanrichardryan » March 18th, 2015, 11:57 am

While taking in yesterday's St Paddy's Parade in downtown, I was reacquainted with a mystery I'd once sought answers for.

On numerous buildings in downtown STP, there are what I'll call 'portholes', both surface-mounted and recessed into facades. They're round, ofte connected to conduit and appear to be made from aluminum. Occasionally they even have a new sodium halide box lamp mounted over them. The Woolworth's 'portholes' are interesting because three of four are in a nice line, then the one to the rear on Minnesota rises up several feet to match the grade change. This also occurs at the PiPress Building. Looks like some sort of modern postwar street lighting project from the 1950s. Anyone know the history? Were they effective? Any other cities do this or is this a St Paul original?

Some locations:

'The Buttery' at 6th & Robert
https://goo.gl/maps/xZ0yP

Former Woolworth's at 4th & Minnesota
https://goo.gl/maps/HT239

And on the Golden Rule
https://goo.gl/maps/aBrWx

And the Pioneer Press
https://goo.gl/maps/9c4Cf

More on robert
https://goo.gl/maps/IUSZN

Ramp at 4th & Wabasha
https://goo.gl/maps/PY0wj

AND vintage:
Image

This one shows them with the lenses, and two other kinds of streetlighting:
Image

Here they're mounted on a two story sign for a one story corner:
Image

Here are some lit (!) at Robert & 7th:
Image
Q. What, what? A. In da butt.

at40man
Rice Park
Posts: 429
Joined: January 3rd, 2013, 6:49 pm
Location: The Saintly City

Re: 'Porthole' Lamps

Postby at40man » March 18th, 2015, 1:00 pm

Great post and research - this could almost go on streets.mn - I find the street lighting of St Paul to be very interesting in general -- I like the ornate fixtures that are found around the city, and often wondered about those portholes as well. In the case of the MN Saloon/Buttery, it appears that it is wired directly to the light fixture on the street. That wire looks so sloppy hanging off the side of the facade like that. Looks like the Pioneer Press also had similar wiring on the exterior at one point. I wonder why some of the fixtures were left blank, while others had the fixtures replaced?

(And ugh.... that Metro Square building recladding was quite hideous. The glass curtain is much better, but I recall seeing portions of the old facade when they were doing some work on the building about 10 years ago - and when the light is just right you can sometimes sort-of see it. And as another aside, the Woolworth's building is the saddest in all of DT St Paul.)

seanrichardryan
IDS Center
Posts: 4006
Joined: June 3rd, 2012, 9:33 pm
Location: Merriam Park, St. Paul
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Re: 'Porthole' Lamps

Postby seanrichardryan » April 7th, 2021, 11:05 am

Q. What, what? A. In da butt.

luigipaladio
Nicollet Mall
Posts: 115
Joined: May 14th, 2019, 1:56 pm

Re: 'Porthole' Lamps

Postby luigipaladio » April 7th, 2021, 1:25 pm

The "porthole" lamps were an attempt by the city to clear the narrow downtown streets and sidewalks of unnecessary clutter. At one time I recall even seeing some of these lights mounted on poles where there weren't buildings to accommodate them - for example, along a parking lot. The glass of the original units had grooves and other patterns to spread the light down onto the sidewalks and street. I never liked them much as in many cases they were plastered onto existing buildings with exposed conduit. In cases where the body of the unit was recessed into the building facades, they were a little less annoying, but even then, it was not an attractive solution to a perceived problem.
It seems to me the lighting scheme was later fifties or early sixties, but I am not certain about that. There's got to be someone out there with that information.


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