SOUTH ORANGE - An effort is underway in South Orange to check and maintain historic gas lamps on the city streets.

Volunteers are inspecting the lamps, making sure they work and light up right.

South Orange Trustee Sheena Collum says the annual event brings residents into the streets. "The gas lamps are beautiful for our community, but don't provide a lot of light, even with one or two mantles out," she says. "So this was a way for the community to get together and light up the night."

Volunteers fanned out to check all 1,400 gaslights in one night. They included South Orange residents, trustees and even students from Seton Hall.

Public safety is the primary goal as they make sure the lamps work and light correctly.

A 21st century tool also helped check the 19th century technology. A smartphone app called "SOconnect" catalogued the lamps that weren't working.

The app notified PSE&G via email about needed repairs, and it can be used to report power and street light outages.
In South Orange, the lamps are a bright part of history. They burned sperm whale oil until 1860 when gas became available.

The town stuck with gas even after electricity arrived in 1888.

"We're hoping with all the lights on it will make it safer for everyone," Collum says.

Gas has served South Orange safely for more than 150 years.