Evanston aldermen this week approved buying 14 more Tallmadge light fixtures as the aging street lights continue to fall to traffic accidents and high winds.

The purchase this week follows approval just last August to buy 23 of the lights in an effort to catch up on a backlog of damaged poles.

James Maiworm, infrastructure maintenance bureau chief for the city’s Public Works Agency, says seven poles were blown down during two high wind events in March alone.

So, he says, while it looks now like the latest purchase should catch up on the backlog and provide a couple of poles in reserve, it’s hard to tell how long that situation will last.

Working on a Tallmadge light on Ridge Avenue today.

And since the lights are a custom item from a sole-source supplier, getting new ones, he says, requires a three-month lead time.

The lights were designed almost a century ago by Evanston architect Thomas Eddy Tallmadge. And despite several upgrades to newer, brighter bulbs, many residents still complain that they deliver more light into the windows of homes than onto the streets and sidewalks where it’s wanted.

As a custom cast-metal item, with the latest order a Tallmadge fixture, pole and base set now costs $6,815 each — more than twice the price of plastic replicas that lack some of the custom Evanston design elements.

Aldermen so far have been reluctant to buck the views of traditionalists who like the old-style lamps, although they did recently opt to go with contemporary style LED fixtures when davit-arm lights are replaced along the Green Bay Road corridor later this year.

The city has about 4,000 of the traditional Tallmadge lights in service.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. More spending on 18th Century ?
    Leave it to the Council to spend more [taxpayer] money just to keep those who want to live in the 18th century happy.
    Face it we need to save money and get brighter lights to reduce crime—and accidents.

    1. Possible Compromise
      An appropriate compromise would be to keep the tallmadge lights in the shopping areas geared towards pedestrians (which are already well lit from storefronts) and neighborhoods that are designated historic districts, and then replace them everywhere else.

      I am tired of walking home from the train in winter and not having good visibility. Lights in most residential neighborhoods should be replaced with modern ones that are economical and that sufficiently light up the sidewalk and street.

      1. Very well stated

        Very well stated by Mike M.

        Only our elected officials would ignore safety year after year.

    2. Brighter Lights?

      To the person who identifies themselves as Guest,

      I can only imagine the public outcry if the City (as approved by the Council) would install ugly fixtures and bright lights in our neighborhoods…  In my humble opinion, the Talmadge light fixtures are elegant and continue to fit in nicely with the character of our community.  It is no stretch of the imagination that better light bulbs, elements or LED's could be retrofited to improve illumination where necessary.

      If you take a moment to click on on the links in the articles and see the photos of some of the alternatives and read the comments, it is clear that this has been discussed and researched for some time now and the alternatives don't fit in here – with the exception of the fiberglass Talmadge style fixtures that are missing a few (small) details but stay in character…

      Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas

    3. 18th century happy
      good thinking—so we replace all the lights in the city and we save money???—

      1) Streetlights give a FALSE sense of security, and make people behave as if there actually was security, which actually increases risk.
      2) Burglaries are more common with streetlights on; a guy waving a flashlight is a lot more noticeable than a guy in bright light.
      3) Large energy savings.
      4) Light pollution for humans, mainly streetlights shining into people’s bedroom

      the Talmadge lights stay

  2. Lights and Accident

    Several years ago a UPS truck hit and pinned underneath it a woman at Central and Ashland. As I recall about 5 PM—I came by just after the ambulence arrived.  I don't know the verdict the police came to or what the lawsuit discovered.

    At first I though the area was well lit–if nothing else from the NU parking lot-but I came back the next day and saw how dim the area was.  I had to think the UPS driver could not see her.

    I usually bike/walk to Central so I probably am use to how dark the streets are all over but twice this winter took the bus and when I got off I thought all the street lights were out. Several times lights have been out on Central to Grant from Ridge to Greenbay; and Noyes to Lincoln and Sheridan to Ridge and I mention it to people [including policemen] and they did not even notice—they are so use to the low lighting.  Many times even after one to two hours of the lights out, I call the city [the police after 5PM] and they say I'm the first to notify them !

    Evanston should not have streets lit like a rural village. 


  3. street lamps

    I'd be very pleased to replace the Tallmadge lights in my non-historic neighborhood with lights that didn't shine very brightly up to 5th floor bedroom windows.  I think alderman should consider using more cost efficient street lamps.  Save the Tallmade ones just for historic neighborhoods.

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