Electric lights arrived at Christmas, 1896

“Fillmore Street Lights Its Lamps,” the Chronicle reported on December 24, 1896. “Crowds Throng the Walks,” the headlines announced. “Brilliant lights and colors abound — a dazzling spectacle with an accompaniment of music.”

The story reported:

Never in the history of the Western Addition has Fillmore Street presented so animated an appearance as last night, when for the first time it was illuminated by electricity.

From Sutter Street northward to Washington the street was as brilliantly lighted almost as at midday. Rays from the arc lamps swinging in the center of the street intermingled with colored lights burned on rooftops. Long and graceful festoons of paper lanterns lined either side of the street, and the storefronts were gay with bunting, flags and lanterns.

Early in the evening, despite the prospect of rain, crowds thronged the street awaiting the signal by which the beginning of the festivities was announced. At 8 o’clock the signal was given, and immediately, at several points of vantage, fireworks were burned. A band of 20 musicians was drawn up and down the street, followed by 20 floats indicative of the industries of the locality.

The crowd, constantly augmented by new arrivals, by 9 o’clock became dense, and joining its applause to the noise of bursting fireworks and the music of the band, made the street resound.

Vari-colored lights were burned in profusion, rockets and Roman candles were fired, bombs and batteries threw showers of brilliant and dazzling rainbow-hued sparks into the air. Under the influence of this illumination the prosaic business street became a vision of splendor.

Nearly every store and building on Fillmore Street was decorated. California Street, taken with the infection, had dressed itself in gala attire also between Fillmore and Steiner Streets.

It was midnight when quiet was restored to the street, which during the preceding years has never known a crowd after 9 o’clock at night.