Evanston city officials plan to ask aldermen to take a fresh look at the city’s street lights at a meeting next month.

More than 20 of the city’s traditional Tallmadge street lights have been knocked down in traffic accidents over the last couple of years and haven’t yet been replaced because of difficulties getting new ones from the only supplier, says Public Works Director Suzette Robinson.

Robinson says the fixtures, designed nearly a century ago by Evanston architect Thomas Eddy Tallmadge, now cost $5,500 each to replace, and because they’re a custom item, the factory has to stop production of everything else to make replacement fixtures for Evanston.

Evanston apparently is the only community that uses the Tallmadge-designed metal pole and light fixture, although Oak Park is said to use the same fixture atop a concrete pole.

Robinson says a fiberglass replica of the Tallmadge pole and fixture is available for $3,000 — a little over half the cost of the metal version.

A metal Tallmadge streetlight on the left, and the fiberglass replica on the right.

And one of the fiberglass versions was installed as a test at the west entrance to the Home Depot shopping center several years ago. While it differs in detail from the traditional fixtures, it apparently has drawn little if any notice from residents.

The fiberglass version lacks the band of Lake Michigan waves toward the bottom of the base and the band of oak leaves and acorns at the point where the base joins the main section of the pole. In addition, the shape of the luminaire is slightly different.

Even 35 years ago an effort to replace Tallmadge lights on some Evanston streets with highway-style davit-arm fixtures drew intense opposition and was ultimately rejected.

Robinson says even many of the davit-arm fixtures in town now are in need of replacement — especially along the Green Bay Road corridor.

Robinson says she hopes the council discussion on Aug. 17 will consider pedestrian lighting along streets like Green Bay, which is scheduled for a major overhaul soon.

And she says one option for the more than 4,000 Tallmadge lights in town would be to continue to use the original metal design in the city’s historic districts, but use the fiberglass replica when lights need replacing elsewhere in the city.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Tallmadge Lights

    The last paragraph of this story appears, in my view, to offer an eminently reasonable solution.

    1. Street lights
      I like the idea of keeping the old lights for historic purposes. However, so much of Evanston is way too dark for the current need for safety.
      Old lights, but brighter bulbs?? Also, trees need to be pruned to prevent them from blocking the light. Overall, I feel Evanston needs better brighter lighting. Perhaps a solar option, maybe attached to the old lights?
      Never have been a fan of bad lighting…just cause it is old doesn’t mean it is efficient.

  2. 20 fixtures?

    So why does the city wait for several years to replace the broken fixtures? 

    You are now up to 20 fixtures over $100,000 in fixtures alone! Not including labor.

    Why didn't they order 5-10 fixtures each year?   That is keep a few extra.   Also given they will have no storage soon if they sell the recycling center, I guess they will want to order one fixture at a time? ( Maybe Wally will justify this as a cost savings?)

    As usually public works management makes little sense.


  3. Lighting along Chicago Avenue

    Lighting along Chicago Avenue isn't much.  Step from the Main Purple Line at night and wonder if there's a step to the sidewalk and a street beyond.  

  4. Lights needed under the viaduct on Greenwood Avenue
    How about installing lights under the viaduct on Greenwood, just west of Sherman…It is dak and dangerous under the CTA/Metra railways…Lighting there is long overdue

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