Project Description

Interior Yale University Sterling Memorial Library

Restored interior fixtures

Tom's collection of hammers
Tom at work
Hot bending of arm
Custom wrought iron hooks

Custom wrought iron and mica fixture

Detail of hand wrought end cap

Custom wrought iron and mica fixture

Detail of custom fixture

Detail of hanger wrought

Replicated wrought iron and mica fixture

Close-up of mica shade

Detail of lighting components

Fixture being stripped

Fixture after stripping

Fixture after restoration

Samuel Yellen fixture

PROJECT: Yale University Sterling Memorial Library, New Haven, CT

Restoration of Lighting Fixtures

Aurora Lampworks Founder Dawn Ladd likes to joke that she got her education at Yale; that’s because Yale University discovered her shop in New Haven, CT, more than three decades ago, and what started out as a project replacing lampshades in the Sterling Library grew into the restoration of every exterior fixture on Old Campus and re­lamping the main fixture at the Payne Whitney Gym.

That’s why it felt like Aurora had come full circle when, in 2013, Yale hired Aurora for the restoration of lighting fixtures in the nave of its Sterling Memorial Library. The library, which was completed in 1930, is located in the heart of central campus and is Yale’s largest and most prominent library.

Aurora’s task was to restore and fabricate some 60 antique light fixtures, most of which were crafted by the late Samuel Yellin, a master blacksmith whose handiwork can be found in some of the finest buildings in America.

To restore these treasures, Aurora turned to one of our incredibly talented vendors, Tom Ryan at Koenig Iron Works. Having worked at the Yellin Studios, he was familiar with Yellin’s techniques and was able to achieve the same look and quality.

All of the historic fixtures had mica shades, which were designed around incandescent bulbs. Working with Kugler Ning Lighting Design consultants here in New York City, we replaced the incandescent bulbs with LEDs. Above the incandescent bulbs, but still within the shades, we installed small but powerful low­-voltage LED spots. Absolutely invisible from the  floor, these up lights are responsible for most of the fixture’s lumen output.

When we replicated the fixtures, we also replicated the mica shades. To match the new mica with the old mica (which darkens as the iron in the material oxidizes), we used a tinted lacquer. Diffusion film was used to line the mica to soften the glow and eliminate hot spots.

To our collective credit, this project won a Lumen Award by the Illuminating Engineering Society New York City Section (IESNYC).

A Piece of Yale’s Library Is Brought Back to Life, New York Times

PHOTO ESSAY: Sterling Memorial Library Nave at Yale University, New Haven Register

The History of Sterling Memorial Library