At first glance, the lampposts appear to be just another picturesque feature scattered through the historic streets of Beacon Hill.
But if you stare for a moment at the light in the lanterns — which are on day and night — you’ll see the flicker of a flame contained in the glass and catch a glimpse of how the city’s streets glowed in days past.
There are 2,800 gas lights in the City of Boston. Beacon Hill has most of them, with well over a thousand of the lampposts topped with the burning flames on its own. But the historic street lights can also be found in Charlestown, Bay Village, as well as sprinkled in some areas of Roxbury and Dorchester.
Webb, who has been with the city for 14 years, heads up the crew responsible for maintaining the far-spread gas lights. It’s a challenging task for a team of two — of which he makes up half.
On a recent warm day, Webb and street light maintenance mechanic George Guptill went light by light on Beacon Hill’s Mt. Vernon Street, replacing panes of glass that were clouded or broken mantles — the part of the lamp that encases the gas flame.
Replacing mantles is a frequent occurrence.
As for the glass, if the panes aren’t broken, Webb aims to change it out once a year, ramping up in certain areas depending on the season.
“When you have a lot of tourists in the city, you want it welcoming,” he said. “You don’t want [the lamps] dirty. So we actually try to step up the game and keep the areas where the tourists are real clean. And then during the week we’ll maintain the other areas.”
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