I first learned about the Centennial Light on a media trip to the Tri-Valley area. With so many great things to do in the region, this little innocuous light might hardly warrant a visit. The four communities of Danville, Dublin, Livermore, and Pleasanton make up the Tri-Valley which is east of San Francisco.
Livermore Fire Station No. 6 is located at 4550 East Avenue in Livermore, California. However, it was an enlightening experience (pun intended), and the Fire Station Chief accommodated my visit even though I didn’t have an appointment. The Chief proudly opened the doors so I could easily see the fire engines and the Centennial Light, which is not visible from the windows.
Why the Centennial Light Is Important
The Centennial Light, an incandescent lightbulb, was donated to the Fire Department in 1901 by Dennis Bernal, who owned the Livermore Power and Light Co.
Invented by Adolphe A. Chaillet, the Shelby Electric Company made this improved incandescent lamp. It is a handblown bulb with carbon filament. The Wattage began at 60 watts and currently shines at 4 watts. It’s continuously burning in the firehouse as a nightlight over the fire trucks.
The Guinness Book of World Records declared the Centennial Light the oldest known working lightbulb. Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not researched it and declared it to be the oldest. Guinness and Ripley’s recognized the lightbulb in 2007, again in 2012, and online in 2014.
Charles Kurault from “On the Road with Charles Kurault” visited the bulb in 1972 and featured it on his program.
Declarations from the President of the United States, Congress, Senate, State Senate and Assembly, and Shelby, Ohio, hang on the display wall in the fire station.
How The Bulb Was Installed At This Fire Station
The Centennial Light was first installed in 1901 at the hose cart house on L Street, then moved to the main firehouse on Second Street. After that, the light moved to the new fire station on McLeod and First in 1903. In 1937, the light was off for about a week while Station 1 was renovated.
For 75 years, the light was directly connected to city power rather than a backup generator for fear of power surges.
With much fanfare, the light moved in 1976 with a fire truck and full police escort to the present site at Fire Station 6 in Livermore, connected to a separate power source.
The power source suffered an interruption in May 2013, leaving the light off for 9.5 hours. When the power returned, the light shone at 60 watts for a few hours but returned to its former 4 Watts. No one knows why this happened.
How Can I See The Centennial Light
The best times to visit the fire station are 10 to 11:30 am and 3 to 5:00 pm.
Ring the doorbell at the front of the station, to the left of the garage doors where the fire engines are sleeping. If no one answers the door, no one is on site. They may be out on a call or training. They suggest that you wait because they will be back.
The firefighters are likely to be there if the fire trucks are there.
To contact them directly, you may call the LPFD at (925) 454-2361.
The Centennial Bulb is hard to see through the apparatus door window. It’s hanging quite close to the ceiling on the right.
Watch the Bulb Cam
Watch the bulb cam on your pc or smartphone.
Future Plans For The Centennial Light
The Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and the City of Livermore intend to keep the bulb burning if it is able. No further plans have been formulated yet. The museum-quality display will remain at the Fire Station indefinitely.
If you are looking for great places to eat in Livermore, California, check out my recommendations on my Guest Post at FoodieFlashpacker.