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Disneyland California’s Old-Timey Gas Lamps Are Authentic 19th Century Antiques

Photograph by Ashish Joshi. Free to use under the Unsplash License.

Most of Disneyland California’s Main Street U.S.A. is fake. The buildings are facades; the castle relies heavily upon forced perspective; even the bricks are made of silicone. But the lamps that light the pathways at night? Those are real. And not only are they real, they are authentic nineteenth century antiques that were rescued from the scrapheap in cities such as Baltimore, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.

Disneyland lucked out. It just so happened that, at the same time as the park was being built, a host of real American cities were in the process phasing out their remaining gas lamps in favor of newer, easier electric models. And so, in what turned out to be a stroke of brilliance, designer Emile Kuri managed to snap up hundreds of vintage units at almost no cost whatsoever.

For a few years after its opening in 1955, Disneyland employed a costumed cast member who would light the lamps by hand each evening. Today, they are left running 24/7, as a testament to what was, and what will never be again.

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