Four generations of craftsmen keep the handmade lanterns flickering at Bevelo Gas & Electric Lights
For decades, the enchanting flicker of French Quarter lanterns has illuminated our courtyards, homes and boulevards. With equal parts romance, history and utility these iconic fixtures provide a timeless elegance to our lives.
Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights is a fourth-generation, family-owned business and the oldest continuously operating gas light manufacturer in the country. For 75 years, the business has blended history, craftsmanship and technology to create these architectural treasures.
When Andrew Bevolo, Sr. worked at Higgins Industries, he helped build the famed landing craft for the D-day invasion. Ten days after World War II ended, Bevolo opened the doors to Bevolo Metal Crafts. A highly skilled craftsman, he did everything from repairing chandeliers to making surgical equipment.
Customers often brought him streetlights to repair. Some of those lights were more than a century old and were onerous to fix. Bevolo put his mechanical background to use and began using rivets to keep the lamp pieces together.
“This was his historic contribution to gas lighting,” says his grandson and current owner, Drew Bevolo.
But Bevolo’s contribution to the lantern didn’t end there. In the early 1960s, renowned Louisiana architect, A. Hays Town was looking for a light fixture to enhance one of his designs. The story goes that he asked Bevolo if he could make a specific light fixture and Bevolo answered: “If you can draw it, I can make it.”
The original French Quarter Lantern was born. Today, all Bevolo lights — which range in price from $200 for simple lamps to $5,000 for larger installations — are still handmade and sourced in the United States.
“Sheets of copper are cut with hand and foot shears,” Bevolo says. “The brackets are hand welded. The nearly one hundred rivets per light are tapped in with ball-peen hammers.”
Drew Bevolo learned the business from his uncle and when he took over, he trained new artisans, opened new warehouses, manufacturing facilities and a museum featuring two working coppersmiths and his grandfather’s original worktable.
He also expanded the number of light styles the company made to more than five hundred.They are all designed to operate continuously with Bevolo’s patented natural-gas “batwing” flame burner, which costs just a few dollars a month to operate.
In honor of its 75 year anniversary, all lanterns will bear a craftsman’s Maker’s Mark. This mark is one of the earliest forms of trademarking and has been used for centuries by craftsmen to claim responsibility for their work.
“It’s very satisfying to have a tangible product to show for my efforts at the end of the day,” says John Greco, craftsman and Bevolo’s creative director. “The thing I love most about my job is knowing that my craftsmanship will be on display and appreciated by our clients every day.”