Gas lights now illuminate Peacock Alley

by Gaige DavilaJanuary 13, 2019

On Aug. 20, 1890, in the San Antonio Daily Light, Gen. David S. Stanley, Camp Stanley's namesake, said the Department of Texas building's switch from oil to gas-powered lamps cost a third of the then-new electric arc lights.

"But, of course, they are not as brilliant as electric lights," Stanley said in the article.

On the same page is an advertisement for Lockwood National Bank, 28 years before the business would build its Greek columned building at 115 Broadway.

Fast forward 101 years and the building is the future home of Maverick Whiskey, a distillery scheduled to open in early March, and which marks the return of gas lamps to downtown San Antonio.

Adorning the side of the building that faces Peacock Alley are four continuously-operating gas lights by Bevolo, a New Orleans-based company who's made custom gas-powered lanterns since 1945.

"We felt the gas lanterns were in keeping with the architectural feel of the building," said Jody Lutz, executive marketing director of Maverick Whiskey. "It also captures the ambiance that we hope to inspire and is a much needed upgrade to Peacock Alley."

Downtown streets were entirely lit with methane-powered gas lights from the late 1850s to the 1910s. Lamplighters would ride through downtown on horseback at night, lighting the lanterns, and then extinguish them in the morning. Late-19th century editions of the San Antonio Express-News, the San Antonio Light, the Daily Light, and Evening Light show recurring advisories to not leave porch gas lights on overnight; gas lantern replacement notices; and petitions to replace electric arc lights with the long-standing gas lights.

San Antonio Public Service Co. installed San Antonio's first light bulb in 1860 in front of the post office in Alamo Plaza, signaling the phasing out of gas-powered lights in the the city.

Travis Park-area residents protested San Antonio Public Service Co. to replace the electric arc lights in their streets with the former gas-powered lights, Ed Gaida, author of "Sidewalks of San Antonio," told Express-News columnist Paula Allen in 2018.

Maverick Whiskey's gas lights, including installation, were aided by $15,000 it received from the Houston Street Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) board late last year. Houston Street TIRZ funds projects concerning "economic activities associated with revitalization in San Antonio's Central Business District." For lighting enhancements, the Houston Street TIRZ, which generates revenue from the increment captured on the rise of property taxes, set aside $165,000.

The city of San Antonio also wants to increase lighting downtown through the Urban Lighting Master Plan (ULMP). The plan, according to its website, will increase street, park and
pedestrian lighting; highlight architectural façade features; enhance night time artwork and iconic downtown sites.

The plan is purely consultatory, intended as a framework.

"We want to be careful to not over light a city, because that really speaks to light pollution and is just problematic for many reasons," District 1 Councilman Robert Treviño said.

The plan is scheduled to be released later this month.

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