the streetlamp, Edison Park, and an evening walk

The streetlamp – with it’s romantic, mysterious, lightening bug glow, I have just enough light to awaken my shadow, but not enough to see beyond, into the dark space between the lamps.

My neighborhood was born out of the first electric streetlamp.

From the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce…

In 1889, a couple of new real estate promoters focused on the development of possible suburbs just beyond the Chicago city limits. They built fancy suburban houses along Olmstead, Oliphant and Oxford avenues, and installed six early electric streetlights at major intersections. Marketed as Chicago’s first “electric suburb”, they were inspired to ask Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the incandescent bulb, to name the subdivision for him. These were actually arc lights, an earlier type of electric light. “Edison Park” was born in 1890.

Arc lamps
arc streetlamps

Hmm…the first “electric suburb”. How quaint to think Edison Park was originally considered a suburb.

What I love most about Edison Park in the summer, is that like most Chicago neighborhoods (and unlike the suburbs), no one rolls up the sidewalks after dark. Neighbors and children are all out being active under the soft, pale beam of the electric streetlamps. They walk, they visit, they sit on porch stoops and decks; they gather in front of their houses to watch the kids play, they water their lawns, they parade their dogs and stroll after dinner. They jog and bicycle, they gather for horseshoes and basketball, tennis and lacrosse, all under the cozy hug of artificial light.

I wonder if Thomas Edison would be proud?

No doubt, his invention was planned with commerce and safety in mind, but, here we are, generations later, able to go out after dark to move around and socialize, enjoying longer days and more activity.

As I was growing up, my parents talked about how they met in Chicago neighborhoods in the 1950’s. They hung out after dark on the streets with their friends, mainly because there was no TV. They never failed to mention how much fun they had after the streetlights came on, and how safe they always felt. They sometimes chastised ‘us kids’ for wasting a perfectly good summer evening indoors, watching television. “Go out and play under the streetlights” they would prompt. “Get some exercise and enjoy the night air.”

I finally understand.

Thank you Mr. Edison! How wonderful it is – to take a walk in the night air!

Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931), was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. Was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention, and because of that, he is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.
Thomas Edison and his light bulb
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