Wanna Buy the World’s Biggest ‘String of Pearls’? The Real Causeway Lights Are for Sale

Iconic Eye-Catchers Are Now Architectural Salvage
By MARIA SCANDALE | Aug 02, 2017
Courtesy of: Matthew White

Sighing at the original “String of Pearls” lights on the old Causeway Bridge is a memory. Looking at them in your yard is a possibility. Wonder no more where they went – Matt White has 250 of them at Recycling the Past in Barnegat, and they’re for sale.

“Light-wise, they’re an architecturally amazing work of art,” said the architectural salvage specialist.

“Mid-century Modern is the hottest stuff in the designer world these days, and that’s what these are,” said White, who recalled, “I’ve been going over that bridge since I was a kid, and it always felt like I was being shot out of a ‘Star Wars’ movie.”

White came by the chance to invest in the items for re-sale after the state sent letters to area municipalities advising historical and other organizations that the lights would be available. He purchased the rights through the bridge repair contractor for the bulk order at what he terms “a substantial amount of money.”

Customers can in turn buy individual units from Recycling the Past in either “as-is” condition or for a higher price refurbished and rewired.

“There is an adaptive re-use for these that is pretty amazing for some people,” he said. “They always had a place in my heart and creative mind.”

To say they’re a hot item extends to Hollywood. A designer for Ellen DeGeneres’ home in Los Angeles arranged to purchase some; Recycling the Past is known countrywide.

Closer to home, White has orders from businesses as well as homeowners. To name just one place, look for them at Parker’s Garage & Oyster Saloon in Beach Haven, where they’re being worked into a design on the new restaurant’s deck.

“They automatically make a perfect seat at a waiting area; they’re great along a rock wall as accent lighting; they could be put vertically onto an entranceway to a building; they could be placed up above to shine downward,” White named some possibilities.

Each unit is extruded aluminum, 10 to 12 feet long and about 18 inches tall. They weigh about 125 pounds apiece.

“Every single one is numbered with an inventory number and an ‘N’ or an ‘S’ for north side or south side of the bridge,” White described. “There are two fluorescent light bulbs per unit, and they can be polished to a mirror finish.”

He is selling the units for $750 each in as-is condition; ask him about the price to have Recycling the Past rewire and refurbish the units. They can be rewired for LED lighting. “It takes work, but it’s not brain surgery,” he said, encouraging do-it-yourselfers to rewire the lights themselves if they want to save some money.

Recycling the Past is located at 381 North Main St. (Route 9), where the “pearls” lights are treasures along with architectural antiques, mantles, stained glass windows, fixtures and other authentic finds.

White will also be bringing some of the units to the Viking Village antique show Aug. 6 in Barnegat Light.

“I wanted to see them get saved,” said White, “and the (bridge repair) company was very interested in preserving the history as well and was excited to find somebody who had the capability to handle the product.”

Drivers may again see something similar to the “string of pearls ”on the Causeway, but they won’t be the authentic originals. A facsimile of the lights, using LED bulbs, is still planned for the main span.

The original bridge designer, N.J. Department of Transportation engineer Dorland J. Henderson, created the lighting system made of separate fluorescent lights recessed into the bridge’s side guard rails. The design was “the first of its kind in the world,” said the DOT.

However, “after being in continuous operation since the 1950s, replacement parts for the lighting system have become unavailable, rendering many of the fluorescent bulbs dark and irreplaceable,” the DOT added when outlining the design of the new bridge system.

— Maria Scandale

mariascandale@thesandpaper.net

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