Antique Gaslight-era Chandeliers

Electrified gasoliers from the collection of Karla Pearlstein.

At the 1861/1885 Governor Curry House in Portland, Oregon, owner and restoration consultant Karla Pearlstein spent 20 years making the house period perfect. Along the way, she’s made friends with people who have similar obsessions, including Cindy Allen, whose business Allen’s Antique Lighting, in Harvard, Massachusetts, provided most of the chandeliers in the house. 

Entry Hall

Early American hall light

An entry-hall fixture.

The entry-hall fixture is a rare example of an American, gaslight-era hall light, ca. 1860. The brass and zinc structure has a dark patina, and the fixture has its original glass shade and smoke bell. As is proper, the Victorian fixture hangs from a plaster ceiling rosette.

Sitting Room

brass gasolier

A brass gasolier in Rococo Revival style.

This is one of a pair of brass figural gasoliers, ca. 1860, in Rococo Revival style. The cast arms feature winged eagles. (A vintage stereopticon shows the same arms in the Green Room at the White House.) Putti flank the central hub, and rams’ heads adorn the upper shaft. Aeolus, Greek god of the winds, encircles the center amphora.


three-arm gas chandelier

A three-arm gas chandelier.

In brass but for the zinc figure, the rod-hung, three-arm gas chandelier, ca. 1860, is a rare piece. A stately Shakespearean gentleman in pantaloons holds a flagged staff. The central body has relief dragons with supporting rods emanating from open mouths. Arms have keys shaped like fabric tassels and twine.

Master Bedroom

American Rococo Revival chandelier

An American Rococo Revival gasolier.

An American Rococo Revival gasolier, ca. 1860 and probably by Cornelius & Baker of Philadelphia, this heavily foliated, four-arm fixture depicts acanthus leaves, and is fitted with period wheel-cut and engraved 2 5/8" gaslight glass shades. Gas (combustion) fixtures always have shades that face up, while electric fixtures may have shades facing down.

Dining Room

A six-arm chandelier.

A six-arm chandelier.

This six-arm chandelier dates to the 1850s. The foliate-design gasolier is fitted with period, wheel-cut shades depicting fuchsia flowers in full relief. Gas-burning fixtures may have been electrified as early as 1900, or whenever electricity became reliable. But reproductions of these stunning gaslight-style fixtures continued to be made for electricity.

Formal Parlor

A Rococo Revival figural gas fixture.

A Rococo Revival figural gas fixture.

Another Rococo Revival example, ca. 1860, probably by Cornelius & Baker, this figural gas fixture is brass and zinc. The three-rod structure is very rare for a six-arm piece. It has the original, ornate structure and zinc figure—a classical woman holding a dove. The antique gaslight shades were added.

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