A fixture in architectural lighting design, for American manufacturer Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights, history is in the making
New Orleans is an American treasure of culture and song, mystics and ritual, beads, and a Baroque beauty both eloquent and alluring. But even in a town so full of bright spots, Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights is a highlight, a company sympathetic to tradition but attuned to the tastes of today. The idea, explains Drew Bevolo, the third-generation owner of the fourth-generation, family-run manufacturer, is that “classic design and quality products never go out of style.” To this end are Bevolo’s last-a-lifetime lights.
Yet it was not quite a lifetime ago that Bevolo began, established in 1945 by Drew’s grandfather, Andrew Bevolo Sr., an Italian immigrant who had made his mark as a metal worker for iconic companies Ford, Sikorsky Aircraft and Higgins Industries (manufacturer of landing craft for the D-Day invasion) prior to opening a metal repair business on Royal Street in New Orleans. His work included fixing streetlights well past their prime. One evening, captivated by the sounds of a bustling workshop, noted Louisianan A.
Hays Town popped into the place. The architect had a lighting design in mind, could the metalsmith make it? Nothing about this interaction would be especially momentous except for the fixture discussed turned out to be the one that helped boost Bevolo to a brand now in 50 states and nearly as many countries—the Original French Quarter Lantern.
Today Bevolo produces more than 500 light styles for residential one-offs and large-scale commercial projects based on the technique that its founder pioneered. Unchanged is Bevolo’s bent for working with copper, a durable material with a made-to-age beauty. A signature oxidation process gives the fixtures a timeworn character of a decade or more; a rich natural patina that allows the lanterns to blend into any environment with undetectable ease.
Bevolo still crafts its lanterns by hand. (Think sheets of copper cut with hand and foot shears, hand-welded brackets, and tapped-in rivets.) This, and the fact that its lights are designed to burn around the clock, Bevolo has patented a highly competent product: the most efficient gas lantern on the market.
Given its commitment to time-honored craftsmanship, particularly in rapidly changing times, it is not at all surprising that Bevolo is a pillar of architectural heritage design. Nor is it is remarkable to learn that a company that considers itself as “part of living history,” as Drew describes it, would take such a shine to New Orleans, where its four French Quarter locales include the utterly alluring Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights Museum & Showroom, an experiential-oriented, exposed brick space illuminated by the warm, romantic flicker of some 40 open flame copper lanterns.
Between two entrances, a lovely interior courtyard leads to a workshop that draws its cabinet of curiosities appeal from Bevolo holdovers: antique fixtures, old worktables and vintage memorabilia.
Complete with coppersmiths on-site to demonstrate Bevolo’s old-world artisanship, the space is available for events. It’s transcendent aesthetic, which would not be out of place in a gothic novel (maybe even one by hometown icon Ann Rice), sets a darkly beautiful scene that “exudes the feeling that one has stepped back in time,” says Drew. Or forward into something definitively of the moment.
Photographs: Courtesy Of Bevolo