Season of Lights


THEN The tradition began with one person, and grew as the Plaza did.

In 1925, the head of the Nichols Company maintenance operation, Charles Pitrat, hung a six-foot string of 16 colored light bulbs over the doorway of the Plaza’s first building, the Suydam building (now the Millcreek Building). As more buildings were added, more lights were hung. In 1928, Pitrat hung lights over 47th Street to reach the new Plaza Theatre. In 1929, he framed the buildings and towers. The first formal lighting ceremony took place in 1930 and has become one of the city’s oldest traditions.

NOW The task is much more daunting today.

The strings of lights are made to fit in the same spot every year. The lights are installed by four electricians in August while the weather is warm and removed by April. The installation crew from Capital Electric uses trucks with lifts, ropes and shoes just like mountain climbers to keep their footing as they scale the Plaza buildings. A code on aluminum tags to identifies where each string of lights belongs, with a series of numbers corresponding to a building, location on the building and height.

The lights are maintained daily. Every bulb will come down to a workbench to be inspected for damage. The burnt out bulbs are replaced and turned into souvenirs, one of thousands of bulbs topping every gift wrapped by the Plaza gift wrap service.