Harpers Ferry turns back the clock on lights

April 16, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Harpers Ferry officials took a stand for their lights.

The view of Harpers Ferry at night was worth fighting a powerful utility company for seven years, the mayor and council members said Wednesday.

Town officials showed off the reproduction historic street lights that are going up in Harpers Ferry, replacing similar light fixtures that had been in town for decades, but have worn out.

More than seven years ago, Potomac Edison told town officials that the old lights would have to come down and modern, cobra-head lights with high-pressure sodium vapor bulbs would be installed.


"Why light up Harpers Ferry like a suburban parking lot?" said Mayor Walton "Kip" Stowell.

Residents and town officials fought back, saying that modern lights would put off a glare while the old lights provide just enough light for the streets without putting off an excessive glow.

"Everyone is familiar with Harpers Ferry at night," Council member Annette Hale said. "You see a twinkling of lights up the hill in town."

With a modern light system, the town would have been bathed in a glow, she said.

Council member Peter Bradford said the issue was so important to residents that some of the former council members were voted out of office in part because they supported the more modern lights.

Town officials, led by Bradford and Stowell, met with the West Virginia Public Service Commission and Potomac Edison officials to fight for the existing light system.

The town of fewer than 300 residents is paying for the historic reproduction lights at a cost of $17,060 plus another $8,000 to Allegheny Power for doing the labor.

Town officials said that Allegheny Power would have put up the cobra-head lights at no charge.

But town officials said the cost is worth it and they hope other historic communities learn from their lesson of standing up for their lights.

"With these lights we'll still be able to see the night sky," Stowell said.

The light fixtures also are more appropriate to the historic nature of the town than the modern fixtures, town officials said.

The town obtained the lights from Pemco Lighting Products Inc., which cast the light fixtures from the original molds used by the Philadelphia Electric and Manufacturing Co.

"I don't know if you can appreciate the S-scroll of the support bar," said Council member John Hughes as he looked up at one of the fixtures on a pole. "Artful, you might say."

"We wish to acknowledge the National Park Service, Sen. Robert Byrd, Barry Williams of the American Streetscape Society and numerous others both in and outside the community who have given their support to prevent Harpers Ferry and other historic towns from being illuminated like a shopping mall parking lot," Bradford said.

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