The French Quarter Lantern is recognizable anywhere—a copper, brass, and glass light found on front porches and lining streets, handmade to last for centuries. The lantern was designed in 1945, and now, 75 years later, it remains an iconic fixture in buildings across the United States. Where did it come from? New Orleans born company Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights, where the lanterns are still handcrafted to this day.
The 4th Generation owned company has four locations in the heart of the French Quarter, staying true to its New Orleans roots. “New Orleans is a exceptionally appropriate city to host our niche business since it was among the first in the country to have urban gas lighting, after Baltimore & Philadelphia, and you can still see its influence throughout the city—giving it a mysterious, alluring atmosphere that is almost transcendent and exudes the feeling that one has stepped back in time,” says Drew Bevolo, the 3rd generation owner.
The French Quarter Lantern takes you back in time too, to the 1930s when Italian immigrant Andrew Bevolo Sr. made his living at Sikorsky Aircraft in Connecticut. There, he was on the team that created the world’s first mass-produced helicopter. He moved to New Orleans during WWII, where he worked with Higgins Industries on the landing craft for the D-Day invasion. After the war, he began his own company—Bevolo Metal Crafts—working on everything from chandeliers to surgical equipment. However, one item he worked on would change his path forever—gaslights.
Bevolo Sr. spent a lot of time repairing streetlights after the war ended. The often century old lights were difficult to fix because of their weakened, soldered copper frames. He used his aviation background to come up with an idea to strengthen the fixtures by using rivets instead of solderings. Bevolo Sr.’s simple solution changed gas lighting forever.
One day, Louisiana architect A. Hays Town asked Bevolo Sr. to collaborate on a light fixture. He sketched out his request, and Bevolo Sr. went to work. It was the birth of the famous French Quarter Lantern, now found across the United States and in famous New Orleans establishments like Brennan’s, Commander’s Palace, and the Cabildo.
Though the times have changed, the integrity of Bevolo’s work remains the same. The iconic copper lights are oxidized for an aged beauty that blends with any decor, past or present. “Copper is our material of choice given its beauty, durability, & longevity in every environment.” says Drew. “We are constantly evolving and developing to stay on trend, but believe that classic design & quality products never go out of style.”
The Bevolo workshop and showrooms are open 7 days a week, and the company makes shopping for lighting a personalized experience experience like no other. The shop features a continuous walkthrough rather than a traditional retail space. “Our showrooms are a memorable experience in themselves, showcasing a collection of our open flame lanterns and vintage lighting in a historic building—in addition to an opportunity to glimpse our craftsmen handcrafting our signature lanterns on-site.” says Drew.
Drew calls the lights they create “lifetime fixtures,” and the same can be said of Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights. As they continue the legacy of handcrafting the nation’s most well-recognized lighting, the store will remain a living part of history.