Bluff Park has been a designated historic district for 37 years — the Bluff Park Neighborhood Association has been around for 47 years.
But it has been much longer since the last of the historic lampposts disappeared, part of the inexorable march of modernization. The concrete-posted street lights found throughout the city stood on the streets instead.
About five years ago, pictures were found of lampposts from the 1920s along East First Street. And an idea was born.
"Lampposts create charm, nostalgia and a sense of place and time," BPNA President Jeff Mallin said. "Ours are uniquely symbolic to the neighborhood and are featured on our logo and street signs… The vision of BPNA’s Bluff Park Historic Lamppost Project is to remove uncharacteristic modern street lights in the Bluff Park Historic District and install historically appropriate lampposts."
That vision had floated around for a couple of decades, Mallin said. But it took discovery of the sketches to prompt formation of a committee.
Then the group found out the original lamppost manufacturer still was in business. That started a hard push to raise enough money to install at least a demonstration area of what a truly historic street could look like.
And that's what will be celebrated Saturday.
This pilot program installed 10 lampposts — along with 80 plaques people received in return for donations — along Paloma Avenue. Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price and Mayor Robert Garcia helped smooth the way with Public Works, Mallin said, to remove the modern street lights and install the historic replicas.
Mallin said the neighborhood association has already begun work to expand lamppost installation beyond the pilot project.
"Now in seeking further funding, commitment, and initiative among more residents and neighbors, the BPNA is working towards the next phases in fulfillment of the entire District," he said. But first, "let us applaud scores of donors, committee members and residents from all over the neighborhood and city, along with Councilwoman Suzie Price and Mayor Robert Garcia who nurtured the vision and passion."
That's exactly what will happen Saturday evening, with a dedication ceremony that will include plenty of good, old-fashioned neighborhood partying. In fact, it is primarily an expansion of the BPNA's annual block party.
Paloma Avenue will be blocked between First and Second streets for the festivities. The public party begins at 6:30 p.m., when food will be served, drinks poured, music played and children's faces painted.
There also will be a dessert baking contest with multiple categories — and the chance to eat the entries. Opportunity drawings, membership applications, plaque sponsorships and out-and-out donation requests will help raise money toward the next round of lampposts.
A ribbon cutting and dedication will interrupt dinner around 7 p.m., but speeches from the politicians —Congressman Alan Lowenthal, who lives in the area, is slated to attend — are promised to be short. Then, as darkness approaches, the new lamps will be lit for the first time.
To cap it all off, there will be an outdoor movie — "The Greatest Showman" is the apropos choice, with popcorn, cotton candy and more. The public is invited to it all, Mallin stressed.
Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.