Old red Christmas lanterns back in Hancock

by Geoff Fox

Over 60 years ago, large red lanterns hung from the poles along Main Street during the Christmas season. When they were taken down after a Christmas some 40 years ago, it was the last time anyone saw them. A few years ago, they were found in storage.

This is one of the last two known lanterns that hung along Main Street from the 1950s to late 1970s. This year, they are on display in the Douglas Motors show room on Main Street.

The lanterns, which are more than three feet tall, have made their way back to Hancock and are on display now in the Douglas Auto Body showroom on Main Street.

Hancock in Motion’s Tim Smith said a group member knew a guy who had the lanterns.

The man said he had the lanterns and thought they should stay in Hancock.

Smith said back in the 1950s, Berkeley Springs had white lanterns and Hancock had the red lanterns.

Both towns started hanging their lanterns around the same time.

Over the course of time, some of the lanterns had gotten damaged or discarded. The rest were put in storage.

Smith didn’t remember how many lanterns were along Main Street, but the two Hancock in Motion have now are the last two that anyone knows about and “they’re in pretty good shape.”

The two surviving lanterns were found in what is now the River Run Bed and Breakfast.

When the building was still a whiskey warehouse owned by a Mr. Taney, Smith said if there was a need for storage “back in the day,” the item was put there.

When the building was sold and being cleaned out, the man happened to be there and saw the lanterns.

“I’m not sure if he bought them off them or if he got them for just getting them out of there,” Smith said.

While the man was interested in other items being pulled out of the former warehouse, it was the lanterns that caught his eye.

Smith said he took the lanterns and looked them over and realized they were the same ones the town had hanging during past Christmas seasons.

After doing some work on the lanterns, such as re-wiring them, Smith said the man had been using the lanterns as his own personal decorations for the last 25 to 30 years.

Smith said since the man has gotten to where he doesn’t decorate as much because of health reasons, he asked where they could be donated since he didn’t want them thrown away.

“Immediately she thought about our group and put me in touch with him,” Smith said.

After looking at them, Smith said he remembered the town using the lanterns up until the late 1970s before being put in storage.

The lanterns still had the original brackets and just needed new wiring.

“He said he really hated to see them lights go away and never be used in Hancock,” Smith said.

The lanterns were donated to Hancock in Motion with the assurance they would be used in Hancock at Christmas time.

This is the first year the group has the lanterns, they weren’t sure if they wanted take a chance and display them outdoors, risking damage or vandalism.

Smith said he contacted Steve Douglas who owns the body shop and show room along Main Street to display the lanterns.

In the display, Smith said the lanterns were hung along with a small Christmas village.

Over the coming years, the lanterns could possibly be rotated among the storefronts in town, but there could be something bigger in store.

Smith said the arch that once stood over William Street could be restored with the lanterns on each side with some festive decorations inside.

The street could be blocked off as the town owns it and there are other access points to get behind the buildings.

Smith said the lanterns will eventually make their way back outside, it just depends on where a good spot would be to protect them from getting damaged, vandalized, or even stolen.

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