If you have walked around downtown Montauk in recent days and seen men on ladders working on and around its 19th century-style street lamps, no, the men are not lamplighters removing the wires and fueling the lamps with whale oil for the sake of authenticity.
The poles were actually made by a company in Pennsylvania that was in business back in the whale oil days and manufactured cannons during the Civil War. The design of the poles and fixtures, created especially for Montauk 18 years ago, is now known as “The Montauk Light,” and has been used by a number of other communities.
The lamps, which replaced towering, institutional-looking Cobra poles, were the idea of John Keeshan, whose real estate office was and is located on the Circle, and of Brad and Claudia Dickinson, who owned the nearby Carriage House shop at the time. They were instrumental in forming the Montauk Downtown Association, which raised about $100,000 for the project from the community. The town added another $400,000, and has now agreed to come up with $60,000 to upgrade the lamps.
Reached last week, Mr. Keeshan seemed re-illuminated, himself, in telling how the upgrade gives the lamps “double illumination, from 75 to 150 watts, but soft, diffused light. They don’t shine up. It makes for a softer environment.”
The realtor said the poles are being refurbished as well, with the help of Tony Littman of the town’s building and grounds department. They are being repainted, and the plaques that bear the names of contributors, restored.
“I’m the lamplighter,” Mr. Keeshan said, beaming his signature smile and going on to mention a few fringe benefits offered by gussying up.
“You drive into town and see American flags on the light poles at times. At Christmas, the lights on the trees are plugged into the poles’ underground wiring. It gives a sense of celebration.”