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Shining bright Bevolo celebrates 75 years of handcrafted lights in the French Quarter BY Davis Allen DURING THE PANDEMIC, the typical French Quarter crowds of visitors and locals have dwindled, quieting the buzz of the Quarter’s bustling street life. But on a warm summer day, one familiar sound — the rhythmic thumping of hammer on metal — echoed down the stone street of Exchange Place.    The sound emerged from the workshop of Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights, the oldest continuously operating gas light man- ufacturer in the country. Celebrating its milestone 75th anni- versary this year, Bevolo has produced its signature hand-craft- ed copper lights in the heart of the French Quarter since 1945.   The same rhythmic tapping sound of hammer on metal once lured a curious A. Hays Town into Andrew Bevolo Sr.’s metal shop in 1959, according to a history exhibit housed at the Bevolo workshop. Town, one of Louisiana’s most note- worthy 20th-century architects, followed the sounds of met- alworking and serendipitously entered the Royal Street shop in search of a perfectly scaled gas light for one of his projects. Using a napkin sketch, the two designed the 21-inch French Quarter lantern that would become a staple for Town’s archi- tectural designs and an icon in New Orleans.   Bevolo’s business had been in operation for more than a decade when Town visited that day. An Italian immigrant who moved to the United States during World War I, Bevolo learned the ins-and-outs of metalworking while employed at Ford Motor Company and then the Sikorsky Aircraft compa- ny. He moved to New Orleans during World War II to build boats at Higgins Industries, and opened his own metalwork- ing shop in the French Quarter when the war ended.   Historic light fixtures from war-torn European cities, brought back to the states by G.I.s, would often find their way to Bevolo’s shop for restoration. To repair the fixtures, Bevolo used a hand-riveting technique borrowed from his background in aviation metalworking. The technique is more durable than sol- dering, allowing for the copper plates to expand and contract with temperature changes, and is still used at the shop today.   “I spent most of my adult life in the aviation sheet metal game,” said Jeb Harrison, one of the company’s present-day craftsmen who handcrafts Bevolo lights. “This is just like building airplanes, only different.” Like Bevolo, Harrison also learned his mastery of the metalworking trade while working at the Sikorsky Aircraft company.   “We consider our company to be a part of living history,” said Drew Bevolo, the third-generation owner of the fami- ly business. With a quick glance inside Bevolo’s Museum & Showroom at 316 Royal St., it’s easy to see why. Inside the workshop, near the building’s Exchange Place entrance, lo- 24  PRESERVATION IN PRINT • SEPTEMBER 2020