A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 17, 2008
Necklace Lighting ("necklace lights” on suspension bridges)

The lights on the cables of New York’s suspension bridges look like necklaces at night. The “necklace lighting” began on the Triborough Bridge and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (in 1964); the East River bridges and the George Washington Bridge would follow. The “necklace lights” are purely decorative and have been turned off to save money, but private donors stepped in to ensure that the lights stay on. 

The term “necklace lights” possibly was first used in San Francisco/Oakland, regarding the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge.


16 January 1939, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 21, col. 3:
When western sunsets fade before the stars,
With necklace lights, and gleaming silver bars,
Our bridgeways of the future span the seas! 

7 December 1964, New York (NY) Times, “Decorative Lights Go Out On the Verrazano Bridge,” pg. 70:
An electrical failure darkened the decorative “necklace lights” on the new Verrazano-Narrows Bridge over the weekend.

5 November 1966, New York (NY) Times, pg. 18:
At yesterday’s hearings James L. Marcus, Commissioner of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity, disclosed that the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queensboro and Williamsburg Bridges would soon be decked out in spectacular “necklace lighting.”

This type of illumination is already in use on the Triborough and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges. It consists of a series of 100-watt mercury vapor lights strung along the curved cables of the bridges.

18 January 1974, New York (NY) Times, “Bridge Lighting Is Cut In Fuel-Saving Move,” pg. 12:
The decorative necklace lighting on four bridges spanning the East River was discontinued for the duration of the energy crisis at the order of Mayor Beame yesterday.
(...)
‘These lights have become a beautiful and familiar part of New York’s famed skyline, but I believe we must take this stringent action as part of a concerted municipal effort to conserve power for as long as the crisis continues,” Mr. Beame said.

7 November 1976, New York (NY) Times, “Energy, the Elusive Quest” by Burt Ross, pg. NJ30:
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey turned on the necklace lighting on the George Washington Bridge for the Bicentennial. They celebrated our independence by increasing our dependence. The lights are still on.

24 August 2003, New York (NY) Times, “East River Bridges Are Missing Strings of Pearls,” pg. CY8:
Lisi de Bourbon, a Transportation Department spokeswoman, called the necklace lights a luxury that are “notcrucial to the functioning of the bridge.” She added: “I know they’re pretty, I know they’re gorgeous. It’s the least painful solution from an operational standpoint. Seventy-five thousand dollars sounds like a pittance, but every nickel that we save helps.”

1 November 2003, New York (NY) Times, “Bridges’ ‘Necklace Lights’ to return” by Alan Feuer, pg. B2:
Strings of ornamental lights on the city’s four East River bridges, turned off eight months ago because of budget constraints, will be relighted on Wednesday, using money donated by four local businesses.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • (0) Comments • Sunday, August 17, 2008 • Permalink