Columbia Lighting Company
Our first visit to Columbia State Park was in the summer of 2001. We loved the town, its buildings, and above all, the many lighting artifacts from the past we saw throughout the park. There were multiple font kerosene chandeliers hanging from the ceilings of stores and historical exhibits, wall bracket oil lamps in just about all the stores, kerosene lanterns on the outside of stores, kerosene and whale oil lamps in exhibits, kerosene powered train headlights in the museum, and street lamps in the form of old gas lights. We were delighted with what we saw as we have been collectors of antique lighting for many years. We just had to find out more about this wonderful town with such great lighting artifacts. We found the website and started researching everything we could find about this town. Between the website, the Friends of Columbia , and the internet, we were not disappointed. It was during our research that we discovered the following information about the Broadway Hotel and the Columbia Gas Company.
Columbia is on record as the first town in California to have gas lighting. In the Tuolumne Courier of January 2, 1858, is to be found an account of the proceedings of the company which introduced this valuable convenience. A group of citizens formed the Columbia Gas Company in October of 1857. The gas works were situated on Gold Street, in the rear of the Broadway Hotel.The price of the illuminating material to consumers was fifteen cents per per each burner for one evening; and in consideration of the privilege of laying mains through the streets, the company agreed to furnish fifteen lights gratis to the city, besides lighting the churches, schools, and other public buildings. The street lamp-posts were to be of cedar, turned, and painted black. The account speaks of the work being pushed forward vigorously and in January, 1858, the city was illuminated by gas lighting; but subsequent issues are dumb concerning gas, and it is only by personal recollection that it is ascertained that after several months use, the gas works and the manufacturer of gas were abandoned. The cause of the failure was the stoppage of the mains by the deposit of tar formed in the distillation of wood, which was used instead of coal, the material which later was in common use; added to which the light was of poor quality. Gas never returned to Columbia and the citizens were once again dependent upon other sources of artificial lighting such as candles, burning fluid, whale oil, and kerosene to illuminate their homes and streets.
It was the above article, along with all the lighting artifacts in this beautiful state park that inspired us to name our website after the Columbia Gas Company and the town of Columbia . If your in the Sierra foothills of California and love historical towns or just have a passion for antique lighting, be sure and make the Columbia State Park one of your stops.