Historic Street Lighting Museum – Los Angeles, California - Atlas Obscura
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Los Angeles, California

Historic Street Lighting Museum

The illuminating collection of L.A. street lights is run by the city and only opens one day per month. 

Taking a trip to the Department of Public Works may not sound exciting, but for lovers of noir, history, and architecture, visiting the hidden Street Light Museum run by the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting is an illuminating experience.

After being guided along corridors and through cubicle offices, you’ll reach a small room showcasing just a minute sample of specimens. There, you’ll see the highlights from the city’s over 400 different styles of street lights. The tiny museum, which was dedicated in 2015, almost seems like a fantasy showroom for billionaires looking to decorate their new mansions.

All beautiful in different ways, these varying street lights have kept the streets of L.A. safe for over a century, ever since the first gas lamps were installed in 1882. For those peering over the velvet ropes that separate visitors from the collection, it comes as a bit of a surprise to see just how ornate many of the earlier designs were. The more extravagant lights feature details like dragons, fruit, stars, and Art Deco accents.

After visiting the museum, be sure to look up while walking throughout the city. Some of the ornate, historical lights are still in use, hidden between the more mundane ones. There are well over 200,000 street lights across the city, and downtown is a particular treasure trove.

Know Before You Go

The museum is only open to the public one Friday each month, for just a brief time period. Reservations are required.