Historical Society unveils gaslight lamp from Eighth Street neighborhood

May 1—ANDERSON — An iconic piece of heritage from the city's historic Eighth Street neighborhood has made its way downtown.

Volunteers and members of the Madison County Historical Society gathered outside the organization's headquarters on West 11th Street Tuesday to share their thoughts and informally mark the installation of a gaslight lamp.

"We're glad to be able to have this treasure from the county's gas boom to be preserved," said Deb Weston, president of the Madison County Historical Society.

The lamp was discovered nearly four years ago in a storage area at the historical society by Belinda Mabbitt, a member of the group's board of advisors.

"Even when it wasn't put together, it was a great looking lamp," Mabbitt said. "I thought, we should be able to utilize this somehow. The first thing we thought of...was that we could put it out here on the sidewalk."

The lamp was donated by Milt and Barbara Otto, longtime residents of the Eighth Street neighborhood who helped organize the city's first Gaslight Festival, held in 1973. Milt Otto recalled that more than 100 of the lamps were installed in the early 70s. They were converted to electricity during the country's gas shortage a few years later.

"They were originally set in concrete," Milt Otto recalled. "When they were taken out, the city power and light (company) came and literally pried them out of the ground with the concrete on the bottom of them."

Otto and a neighbor collected most of the lamps and stored them in a lot near Seventh Street. The lamp that was set up at the historical society is one that Otto held onto and later donated.

Volunteers with the historical society said the lamp had two new, custom-made light bulbs installed in the casing, noting that a college engineering class at the Madison County Purdue Extension did the work as part of a class project.

Mabbitt said restoring the lamp to working condition and displaying it at the historical society is a reminder of the society's role in sharing the area's history.

"That's what we're all about — preserving everything we can," she said.

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.