Why Do Some Of Our Stanchions Have Holes?

The Case of the Mysterious Holes

In 1905, with the blessing of the NYC Board of Aldermen, 24 ornamental brick pillars were erected to mark the boundaries of the new Prospect Park South development. Each had their street name engraved at the top, just below stone flower pots, with a monogrammed “PPS” on every side. 

1905: PPS Pillars Approved
2016: PPS Pillar on Argyle Road

Over the next 20 years, Midwood Park, Fiske Terrace and West South Midwood would follow suit, although none featured monograms and our forefathers opted for the trim line without engraved street names. 

2018: Ocean & Glenwood

2018: Foster Ave & E 17th St

Ours once featured flower pots (per 1983 photos) but after rampant crazy drivers took out stanchion after stanchion, the replacements were topped with white stone globes. Still, we out-pillar Ditmas Park and Beverly Square which have no pillars at all. Tsk, tsk, tsk. 

1983: SE Corner Westminster Rd & Foster Ave

1983: NW Corner Argyle Rd & Ave H

1983: SW Corner, Foster Ave & Rugby Rd

But I am frequently asked, being the repository of exceedingly useless local minutia, why those pillars that have miraculously survived from the 1920s sport a hollowed-out platform in the center. 

2019: Foster & Argyle

Photos, taken decades apart, of two stanchions on Avenue H – one at the northwest corner of Westminster Road and the other at the northwest corner of Rugby Road – provide the answer I believe. A close inspection of 1940 NYC tax photos found electric lamps sitting atop each! 

1940 NW Corner Westminster & Ave H
Looking North Up Westminster

1940 NW Corner Westminster & Ave H
Looking South Past Ave H to E 12th St

1940: NW Corner Rugby & Ave H
Electric Light Atop (Far Right)

2018: NW Corner Rugby & Ave H
Note Hole, Bottom Right

It seems the innards of our pillars had cables that powered globe lights at the top. But as modern photos attest (from 1963 & 2018), the electric globes were now gone, and hollow voids appears where the “mechanicals” providing the juice for the globe presumably once sat, leaving an empty hole in our stanchions’ hearts to accumulate trash lo, these many years. 

1909: July 28. Pillars
Coming to Midwood Park
When the pillars in Midwood Park & Fiske Terrace were erected in 1910 the City originally agreed to supply the electricity for lighting tungsten lamps that would sit atop their stanchions and provide light to the streets in lieu of the City’s street lamps which the Municipal Arts Commission had deemed ugly. 

 But upon further review, City engineers rejected the proposed artsy tungsten lamps as much weaker than the City’s arc lighting. A pillar at the northwest corner of Glenwood & Ocean Avenue has a hole much like ours and some others appear to have had a hole bricked over. 

2018: Glenwood & Ocean.
Note Hole in Middle 

Hmmm. Perhaps our stanchions, erected in 1925, featured lighting that passed muster but had to be disabled or removed as a result of World War Two blackouts? 

Finally, after one of our stanchions was wrecked by an accident-inducing speedster in 1992, the WMCA arranged for a new pillar to be installed. A former resident, Barry Katz, contributed an industrial strength steel box and urged that it be used as a time capsule. Accordingly President Joe Mislowack filled it up with a mint set of coins contributed by Lennie Grau, along with the address list of dues-paying West Midwoodians (Hint! Hint!), and a video of the neighborhood. The box remains buried under the stanchion at the southwest corner of Rugby Road & Foster Avenue. Notes Joe, “I hope when a future generation finds it, they know how to play a VHS tape.”

1931: PPS Pillar at
Westminster Rd & Church Ave
Toppled by Sedan & Mail Truck. Oops.

2018: Foster & Argyle

2019: The Distinctive
West Midwood Hole


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