World's Oldest Traffic Light

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Despite grumbles from envious rivals, Ashville sticks to its claim that it has the World’s Oldest Traffic Light. The light is now on permanent display inside Ohio’s Small Town Museum, along with marvels such as the world’s biggest scrapbook, a buoy from the ill-fated warship Maine, and a tribute to James Hulse, the only Ohio Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. But it’s the traffic light — designed by Ashville resident Teddy Boor — that people always want to see.

Museum director Charlie Morrison, a former Ashville mayor, told us that the Light has never stopped working since 1932, which is when it was installed at the corner of Main and Long Streets (Continuous operation also entices fans of the world’s oldest working light bulb). The light looks like a silver, Buck Rogers-era football, and operates like a radar screen, with green and red alternately wiping in a circle across its face. According to Charlie, the light was retired from active duty in 1982 only because color-blind people couldn’t tell if it was green or red.

For decades after it found a home in the museum, the traffic light was re-hung outside during Ashville’s annual 4th of July celebration. That ended in 2005 with fears that the light might be stolen at night. Now it directs foot traffic inside the Museum, permanently protected, and still always on. We asked Charlie if the museum wanted to hedge its bet by calling it the world’s oldest existing traffic light, or the world’s oldest working traffic light. He said no way. They’ve done research, he told us, and all of Ashville’s rivals have failed to prove their claims. This one is the oldest, and that’s that.

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