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Collections Cameo, August 2015

“Lighting a Residential Suburb” article by Neil N. Campbell, August 1930

This article, “Lighting a Residential Suburb,” was reprinted from The American City, August, 1930. The author, Neil N. Campbell, served as Lake Forest City Engineer from 1917 to 1948.

With its large lots and tree lined, winding roads, providing adequate street lighting for automobiles and pedestrians was a particularly difficult – but essential – issue for Lake Forest to tackle. By the late 1920s, the problem had become acute.

In his message to the outgoing City Council in April 1929, Mayor Albert B. Dick Jr. said, “Immediately before us is the necessity of guiding transient traffic through Lake Forest quickly and safely with the least disturbance to the peace and quiet of Lake Forest, and in a line where the least harm will result. Lake Forest street lighting is notoriously inefficient.”

Over the course of the next year, a committee was formed, lighting surveys were conducted, and other towns were polled and visited to endeavor to determine the best lighting strategy. As City Engineer, Neil N. Campbell was one of the leaders of this Lake Forest Committee on Street Lighting. His co-author of this article, F. A. Vaughn of Milwaukee, was the Consulting Engineer hired by the committee. Other members from the community included George Richardson, W.A.P. Pullman, Kent Chandler, John Hawkins, and Alexander Revell Jr.

At their April 21, 1930 meeting, the Lake Forest City Council accepted the Street Lighting Committee’s report and adopted a comprehensive plan for lighting the streets. This article, by Neil Campbell and F. A. Vaughn, outlines the committee’s recommendations and how Lake Forest was beginning to implement them.

A new electrical ornamental street-lighting system was to replace the old gas and naphtha lights. (Of course, we know today that not all the gas lights were replaced.) After studying the street conditions and traffic patterns, the streets were divided into four classifications which required different intensities of lighting: “The average spacing of the lights as fixed for the various types of streets is as follows: Business streets – 88 feet; Thoroughfares – 169 feet; Residence streets – 172 feet; Highways – 300 feet.” Business streets were to receive 6,000-lumen lamps, while residence streets required only 2,500-lumen lamps. For example, Western Avenue was classified as a business street, Sheridan Road as a thoroughfare, and Lake Road as a residence street.

Engineers recommended a mounting height of 15 feet “as most satisfactory for Lake Forest,” to maximize light rays directed to the street and sidewalk surface but minimize glare and the branch-trimming necessary in the tree-filled community.

For residential streets and thoroughfares, “an adaptation of the same design of ornamental concrete standard with bronze bracket and lantern that is now used in two of the residential sections of the community has been decided upon,” while “in the business districts the design of post and luminaire now used on Lake Forest streets of this classification is to be continued.” The article included photographs of both types. (See below.)

The article concludes with a cost analysis. With their current system, in 1929 Lake Forest was paying $18,666 per year for its system of 167 electric lights, 269 gas lights, and 26 naptha lights (462 total); in the proposed system, Lake Forest would pay $29,068 per year for 1,535 electric lights of varying candlepower. This represented a 233% increase in the number of lights; a 400% increase in candlepower; and only a 55% increase in cost.

However, the worsening economic depression presented a formidable obstacle in implementing all these plans. Though in 1930 and 1931, the City constructed new street lights in several sections of east Lake Forest and in Deerpath Hill Estates, by 1932 construction slowed. At one point the City recommended that all the street lights on Waukegan Road – save those at intersections – be disconnected to save money.