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Antique Lampposts Restored at UW

June 9, 2014
Antique lamps
Looking as fresh as when they were donated in 1911, three antique lampposts illuminate the path to Old Main. (UW Physical Plant)

When members of the class of 1911 donated three lampposts to commemorate the University of Wyoming’s 25th anniversary, none of them could have imagined that visitors would still enjoy their gift more than 100 years later.

Located west of Old Main and south of the Williams Conservatory, the three antique lampposts frame a sandstone walkway near a memorial to student Lowell O’Brien who, while planning an event to welcome UW President Arthur Crane to the university in 1922, was killed when he was thrown from a horse.

In July 2013, John Nutter, retired UW administrator, observed that the posts were in need of painting and notified the UW Physical Plant to see if that could be accomplished. Upon evaluation, workers determined that the posts were rusted and deteriorating at the top and bottom. They would need to be repaired before painting.

After considering the historical significance of the posts, UW Physical Plant staff members considered a complete restoration of the lights and posts. A project was proposed and approved by Physical Plant Director Jim Scott.

The project began with disconnecting power and using the crane from the Equipment Services shop to put the posts on a flatbed trailer. Montgomery Stryker, a Laramie company, sandblasted off more than 100 years of paint. The posts were brought back to the Paint Shop, and a coating of rust inhibitor was sprayed on them so the rust would not return.

The lampposts were taken one at a time to the Physical Plant Welding Shop, where Pat Jones and his assistant, Clay Niss, cut off the rusted ends of the posts, shortening them by only a couple of inches. The tops of the lights were repaired, and several of the missing horns from the crown features were re-manufactured. When the posts were returned to the Paint Shop, the re-manufactured horns could not be distinguished from the original ones.

Paint Shop employees Kelly McMichael and Lonny Walker discovered the original paint color inside and matched it with new paint. The original green color was approved by Larry Blake, the UW architect. The brass plaques on the bases also were painted with black background, sanded to enhance the letters and then an automotive clear coat sprayed over them, allowing the plaques to be more legible.

Restoration of the light heads was assigned to the Physical Plant Glass Shop. An obscure glass called “rain glass” was selected for the restoration.

“Rain glass gives the effect of water running down the surface of the glass and gives the heads a more decorative luminance,” Scott says.

When the painting and glass replacements were complete, UW electrician Bob Bailey wired the posts and attached new LED fixtures. The LED lights are more energy efficient, have a longer life and provide a great complement to the rain glass.

The posts were then loaded back on the flatbed trailer and returned to their original location, where they were carefully reinstalled and the wiring reconnected.

“Total cost for the project was about $15,000, but the value of the result far exceeds that amount,” says Scott. “The restoration is an example of how technical upgrades can occur while respecting and preserving history.”

Nutter describes the restored lamp posts as “marvelous.”

“From the plaques, to the special paint, to the crinkled glass to the modern light bulbs, it is a great representation of the past while using the best of today’s technology,” Nutter wrote in a letter to Scott. “I commend you for taking the time and interest to restore, rather than replace, this bit of UW history. You’ve set a fine example for future generations to follow.”

Scott says representatives from five Physical Plant shops were proud to take part in the restoration project.

“When we have the opportunity to complete a project with this significance, it is a bright spot that makes us realize how fortunate we are to be associated with an institution that has touched so many lives for such a long a time,” Scott says.

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