With the holiday season in full swing, many neighborhoods throughout the United States have likely seen their streets turned into bright, festive settings with the use of outdoor lights. Now a winter tradition for a number of families, regardless of religious background, there are plenty of ways to decorate and illuminate your home. But according to people from Colorado, only one city is responsible for creating the trend: Denver.
While many people believe holiday lighting began in New York City, Denverites insist that the tradition began in the Mile High City. According to historians, Denver businesses began decorating their storefronts with red and green lights as early as 1907. However, the concept did not truly take off until 1914, when D.D. Sturgeon, the founder of Sturgeon Electric, decided to give his ill grandson a holiday surprise. Dipping electric bulbs in green and red paint, Sturgeon wrapped the pine trees around his home in the lights, delighting his entire neighborhood. Today, houses on West 34th Avenue, the original site of the Sturgeon homestead, still follow the tradition with gusto.
However, some evidence suggests that outdoor lighting may have existed before Sturgeon decorate his pine trees: in 1880, Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent light bulb, reportedly hung a string of electric lights outside his lab to celebrate the Christmas season. This quickly encouraged his friends and peers to replace the dangerous candles they used to illuminate their Christmas trees with Edison’s much safer invention. By 1894, a tree decorated with electric lights was erected at the White House for the benefit of President Grover Cleveland’s daughters, creating a national trend.
In Denver, however, many people still insist that their city is the birthplace of outdoor lights. And while others may have used the decorations first, it can’t be denied that Sturgeon is responsible for many of the ways the lights are used today: after using the lights on his own property, he was hired to decorate Civic Center Park and the City and County Building, creating the first public light display in the area. Today, like many other places throughout the country, Denver continues this tradition by using more than 25,000 lights and 17 miles of wiring on the City and County Building alone.
Although the outdoor lights will typically disappear as the New Year begins, these holiday displays aren’t the only way homeowners can decorate and illuminate the exterior of their homes: many different features, ranging from colonial outdoor lighting fixtures to antique lampposts, are used to complement homes across the U.S.
The argument over the origins of outdoor holiday lights may never end. However, if you are reluctant to take your lights down at the end of the season, more permanent lighting fixtures might be the perfect option for you.