Only 47-Percent of Gas Lamps Are Fully Functioning

Special to the Times

On Nov. 21, a team of six Northeastern University students fanned out all over Beacon Hill to survey the status of all of the gas lamps in the neighborhood. 

The survey project was conceived of by Rob Whitney, the Chair of the Beacon Hill Civic Association (“BHCA”), as a comprehensive way to determine the working status of all of the gas lamps within the Beacon Hill National Landmark District.  

The Gas Lamp Survey Team (from left to right): Sophia Gunzburg, Angels Barcelo Boj, Shamile Aldossary, Caroline Hanlon, Geneve Lau, and Urmila Suresh.

“The BHCA had heard a lot from our members about non-working gas lamps in the neighborhood,” Whitney said, “and we learned from the City that they typically only hear about broken gas lamps from 311 reports or through individual resident calls.”

Whitney said the BHCA decided to do a comprehensive review of all the Beacon Hill gas lamps and hired Northeastern University students to conduct the survey.

 “We did a short training with the students using a free app called ‘Map Marker’ to record the street location of each gas lamp, each gas lamp’s GPS coordinates, and the condition of each gas lamp,” Whitney said. 

The six students then went out in teams of two, and recorded the status of the gas lamps on Beacon Hill.  The surveyors found there were 1,028 gas lamps within the borders of Beacon Hill.  

The survey results were as follows:  out of 1,028 gas lamps present on Beacon Hill, 127 do not work at all, and give off no light whatsoever.  These included one gas lamp that was missing its entire gas poles, and one that was missing its entire top section.  A total of 901 gas lamps were working to one degree or another: 488 were entirely working; and while 413 other gas lamps were working to some degree, they were also otherwise damaged in some way, such as having missing or torn gas mantles – the three small bags in the top portion of the gas lamps that hold the burning gas – or the glass in the top portion of the gas lamps was broken.

Whitney stated that the survey project was a great success, and that the BHCA learned a great deal about the condition of the gas lamps on Beacon Hill.  “One very interesting fact was that we learned that 12.3 percent of all the gas lamps on Beacon Hill aren’t working at all; and another 40.3 percent of all the Beacon Hill gas lamps are damaged in one way or another.  That means that only 47.4 percent of all the gas lamps on Beacon Hill are fully functioning and not damaged in some way.” Whitney stated that the BHCA had shared the detailed information that the survey had generated with the City, including a spreadsheet that sets forth the street location and GPS coordinates of every damaged and non-working gas lamp on Beacon Hill.   “We are hoping to work closely with Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets, Transportation and Sanitation and Chris Cook, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space for the City of Boston, to get every single gas lamp on Beacon Hill repaired and in complete working order as soon as possible,” Whitney said. “It is a matter of public safety that we have all the neighborhood’s gas lamps working well and providing light to each and every street on Beacon Hill.”

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