The Lamppost Graveyard
By Jessica Chamberlain, Laurie Melchione, and Gabriella Fiorica
When Professor Tom Kinsella first said, “Check out the Lamppost Graveyard,” all three of us smiled blankly. The Lamppost Graveyard? Was that a colloquial name for a burial site? Was it some quirky restaurant in Galloway? Were there graves?
The graveyard, we soon found out, is none of these things. Three of us, freelance writers for Stockton’s 50th Anniversary Commemoration Project, set out to visit this mysterious location on an unusually warm February day, 2020, perfect weather for a leisurely walk into the campus woods. Or so we thought.
We met near Parking Lot 1 and crossed Vera King Farris Drive, walking down a short road that quickly turned to dirt. At that point, we realized we didn’t clearly know the location of the cemetery. We wandered about, assuming we would stumble upon a site befitting the name. Under the strangely sultry sun, we trekked through the woods, zigzagging around overgrown weeds, overstepping litter, skirting a green perimeter fence safeguarding campus machinery. Then we rounded a weed-choked corner, and there it was. Some old, rusty lampposts covered in crisp leaves. We were underwhelmed.
The lampposts were not the only items scattered about the forest floor. We found old cinder blocks, pipes, and other excess building material. A large map of the campus lay on the ground, a derelict sign so old it didn’t feature the Campus Center. The area is a kind of outdoor storage unit for bulky campus detritus; it is a Stockton history dump. It is also a bit spooky. Let’s say you walked here after dark and heard a noise. The area would be a great setting for a climactic Stephen King scene.
At first, we found a small cluster of lampposts, laid by the dirt track. Not much of a graveyard—a few misplaced streetlights stored in the woods. But upon further investigation, we found, stashed beyond a line of trees, a shiny mountain of silver metal. Piled like bodies one on another were scores of long, sturdy lampposts. Different styles from different years sat atop broken glass. They had been placed in these woods and apparently forgotten.
The mood of our trek, which at first was unhurried and then adventurous, was now contemplative. We had stumbled upon something that was akin to a displaced archaeological site. As Stockton has grown, it has repurposed its ubiquitous parking lots. Here we found a record, incomplete to be sure, of the lighting systems that served Stockton well and predated Big Blue, West Quad, the Campus Center and the newest quad buildings. The Lamppost Graveyard preserves relics of Stockton’s past, visible proof that different versions of the school existed once upon a time.
Stockton has an excellent department of Special Collections and Archives in the Bjork Library; we know it well. As we hiked back to the main road, heading toward campus, we realized that we had been in a different sort of archive. In its way, it provides the curious with tangible, if unexpected snapshots from Stockton’s rich history.
Learn more about the graveyard site in The Spray Field: Stockton's First Environmental Initiative to found why this space exists in the middle of the woods and where it is located on campus!