Monday, December 11, 2006

Monticello By Beacon Light, 1928

Atop the old Monticello Hotel (now the Court Square Condominiums) used to sit the Thomas Jefferson Light -- aka the "World's Largest Searchlight" -- which was occasionally called into service to illuminate Monticello at night, as pictured in the 1928 postcard above. You can see the searchlight in the postcard below, which is from the early 1940s.

For a fascinating history of the Thomas Jefferson Light, read this article from the Sept. 2005 issue of Lighthouse Digest. My two favorite passages:

"Care had to be taken when manipulating the beacon because it was claimed that if the beam were cast on a person 1,000 feet away, the intense light would blister the skin. The brilliance of the light producing center in the searchlight was said to have been the equivalent of the sun’s intensity at noon. When in operation, the center was touted as being the hottest spot on earth."


"[The light] was too powerful for those who were caught in the illuminating beam as it panned over favorite necking areas. 'Roadside petting parties in Charlottesville are destined to vanish into the lost limbo of hoop skirts and mint juleps when the giant searchlight is permanently lit,' read a Daily Progress article after the tests [in Aug. 1927]. 'Consternation concerning the effect of the light is being felt among the ‘Roadside Sheiks’ and already, there is a general uproar in the ranks of the Philistines. Someone has conjured up a picture of a return to wartime methods and the use of camouflage'.”

Do you suppose this is one of the "favorite necking areas" that couldn't escape the Jefferson Light's prurient gaze?

Lovers Lane, Charlottesville, 1911 (Anyone know where this was? I can't place it.)


Sean said...

Thanks for posting this - I miss the old building, which of course is the home of the Court Square Tavern, which is still closed nine months after the fire. This post will have to satisfy my Court Square fix for a couple more weeks, at least.

TL Patten said...

Re: Lovers Lane Postcard--

That stretch reminds me of the path I used to walk to school from Antoinette Ave. in Johnson Village, before Orangedale and all those other subdivisions were put in. It may not be of that particular path, but it could be of any of the walking trails that passed through the Fifeville-area woods.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pic of the Silk Mill, I go by there everyday and never think of the history it represents and what it ment to the history of Cville.