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New member - Question regarding very old Nightingale/Kim fixtures

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by JonasClark, May 29, 2010.

  1. JonasClark

    JonasClark LawnSite Member
    Messages: 26

    I'm not a lighting pro, but I'm not a DIYer looking for free tips, either... I respect what's discussed and done here. If I eventually have enough funding to cover a real lighting job, I'll hire one of you. I have personal interests in archaic lighting tech, and I collect vintage light fixtures of all sorts.

    Few years ago, I found F. B. Nightingale's 1958 "Garden Lighting" book in a local library, and to my surprise (I had assumed it'd be impossible to find) the librarian found it on Amazon, and I soon had my own copy. It's really a fantastic book both from technical and historical standpoints. I understand that Bill Locklin invented and perfected the original low voltage systems, but it seems Nightingale began the idea of garden lights that blend into their surroundings... I'm fascinated by some of these fixtures, some using some technology that seems forgotten today in garden lighting, though some of it is a bit wild by today's standards. I'm curious as to whether anyone here has ever encountered any of Nightingale's unusual specialty fixtures.

    Electrical outlet hidden in artificial mushrooms. Lily and flower shaped lights, with flowers containing not only lights but electrical outlets, switches, and radio or telephone jacks, with a bud acting as a rotary switch (presumably connected to the switch in the junction box by flexible cable?). A potted cattail with a light inside the head (precursor to the Nightscaping Seegarliter, in a sense? I also see a light under a sundial and a kerosene lantern concealing a downlight, with a glowing "wick", which Nightscaping now sells as well). Getting more theatrical, I see moonlight effects with an eyeball fixture inside a solid housing, which slowly rotates downward to approximate moonlight rising from behind a house, or dimmed up from zero for a similar effect. A motorized switching device runs a handful of tiny lamps on thin black wires, to be hung in a tree to approximate fireflies (though I know other tech has been invented to do simpler firefly effects).

    My personal interest in lighting overlaps with interests in fountain technology. Nightingale mentions a "Colorscope", a submersible fixture containing multiple revolving color wheels which shift the light through a range of primary and pastel colors; using synchronous motors mean a number of these used together would all produce the same color at the same time. Motorized devices are offered that can turn water nozzles on and off using gears and rotary valves, or create geyser-like "flip" effects with faster pop valves; archaic and outdated by today's standards, yes, but fascinating. Another fixture, to be mounted under a down-pointed spotlight, consists of a bronze casting with two lenses held apart by a spring, the lower one drilled with holes to shower illuminated water drops. I don't think any of the above was just "what if" dreaming, either; I believe this was all produced and installed on very high-end jobs, as the book contains very tidy cuts that seem to have been catalog illustrations.

    Pardon the verbosity. Has anyone here ever happened upon any such archaic but imaginative, no-longer-manufactured Kim fixtures or effects? And, were I looking to hunt down one or two such things for my own interest, where might I look? Not like there's much of a market for 30-to-50-year-old, used outdoor lighting fixtures. I imagine there must be more than one big old Hollywood estate that still has a few (if I remember correctly, don't have the book handy at the moment, Nightingale was based in the Hollywood/LA area, and it stands to reason that some of these super specialty fixtures went into jobs for clients like Artur Rubenstein and Gary Cooper, whose gardens are pictured in the book) and yet, when they wear out, I figure most went in the trash. Or got forgotten and are still lurking around in the bushes somewhere, waiting for someone like me to find them and fix them up as bits of lighting history.

    I have another question regarding vintage landscape lighting fixtures, but I'll put that in a separate thread. No worries about me flooding the board with threads, either; before posting anything, I browsed the entire archives, looking for threads that answered other questions I had.
  2. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,550

  3. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,550

    He wrote another book available through Amazon sellers too... published in 1962, called "Lighting As An Art".

    And Jonas, according to worldcat.org, the Seattle Public Library has a copy.
    Last edited: May 29, 2010
  4. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,550

  5. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,550

    Last post on this for me today. Cool book though.

  6. JonasClark

    JonasClark LawnSite Member
    Messages: 26

    Yes, he certainly seems to have been an innovator. I did not know about the star, though. Thanks for the link.

    I'll look up that later book, too. In the earlier one, he describes a lot of what's been said on this forum: that designing proper landscape lighting requires degrees of skill and of learned ability, for the designer must be able to envision how effects may work at night while looking at the garden by day. His fixtures weren't low-voltage, but they were designed to blend in, perhaps the first example of the "see the effect, not the source" philosophy.
  7. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    Great info and great Christmas star ! the link provides better photos. 35 feet tall ! I have put up some 4 and 5 footers, but man, that star makes a statement. really would not be too hard to build, looks like 2x4's and ceramic medium base sockets on perimeter only, about 16 inches to 24 inches apart. The local utilities would frown on mounting to the pole, but you probably could get away with it for a season. Given the right topography, I would try to mimic that star for a client. Great research !
  8. JonasClark

    JonasClark LawnSite Member
    Messages: 26

    Has anyone here, though, ever run into - or heard about - any of the stranger fixtures described? These were all line-, not low-voltage.

    Electric fireflies, on cords, driven by a motor and rotary switching device disguised as a birdhouse (lights were low-voltage output)
    "Colorscope" fountain lights, with internal color wheel systems for changing colors (some of them with integrated spray rings or cast metal "lily pad cluster" surrounds to disguise them by day)
    Electrical outlets hidden under a mushroom or under a metal rock?

    Two local shopping malls used to have indoor/outdoor planters equipped with rock spotlights; a fiberglass rock, looking quite realistic, with a circular hole on one side and a spotlight hidden within. I've been able to get hold of two of these.
  9. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    I have not run into any of these, but then I am only looking back over a 25 year period, I started changing and repairing some line voltage pagodas back in the mid 80's. growing up in a mostly farming / lower income part of a poor state, I would gather most of those folks, even the better off, would not have purchased funky higher end fixtures. I would expect to see them more up in the northeast/new england state area, or in California, maybe bought in larger cities by engineers, middle and up level managers, maybe entertainers, architects or celebrities of the time.
  10. Dshaw

    Dshaw LawnSite Member
    Messages: 1

    FB Nightingale was indeed the father of landscape lighting having started Kim Manufacturing. He published an earlier book called 'Fairyland is just beyond your Window-sill' in 1936. While he took on the design and manufacture of landscape and fountain lights, he was not the first. Both GE and Westinghouse had been producing underwater fixtures since the 1920's. These were improvements to the the type of lighting that was used for fountains before that time and was mostly used at the fairs of the day.

    While Nightingale was the first to develop fixtures specifically for landscape lighting, he was not the first to identify outdoor lighting as a significant to architecture. That would be Luther Stieringer who worked with Edision and GE and was really the first Illumination Engineer.

    The lighting and fountain business is intrically tied together as Stieringer designed many fountains (as did GE after his time) to show off lighting. These were called Electric Fountains or Prismatic Fountains.

    Much information can be found on Google Books - search free Google e-books which are older open copyright books that have been scanned by librarys.

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