Francis Byron Nightingale was born on December 26, 1885 in Deerfield, NY to parents, Thomas P. Nightingale and Harriett Little. His parents had three children together, all boys—Edgar, Thomas and Francis. He was the youngest of the siblings and was always curious in life. Francis (Frank) was fascinated by magic and this became his first true passion.
Frank’s first job was as a paper boy by delivering the Utica Observer, but he spent much of his childhood studying the art of magic. By the time he turned 16 years of age, he performed as a professional at many New York venues, including Vaudeville. His stage name was, “Nightingale the Mystifier” and he was part of the ‘Brotherhood of Magicians’. Magic was his career until about his mid-20’s.
The following is what Frank wrote about a couple of moments in his early days in his book, “Magic for Magicians” (1964):
“They say that ‘Magicians are born’. How true, how very, very true, seeing that by being born is the only way any of us ever manage to arrive here.
I started in right—fooled them all the very first day. They said I would be a girl, but decidedly was not! They said my arrival would be on Christmas, but I was stubborn—waited until after mid-night. It was now December 26, 1885 in the quiet little village of Deerfield, Oneida County, New York State, U.S.A.
Dad could not blame me on Santa Claus now, and there were no storks about. My yowls gave him an idea—it was brilliant! He chucked me into a bureau drawer in the spare bedroom. The serenade increased awakening my two older brothers. Dad said, ‘Sounds like a bobcat, let’s get the shotgun!’ So armed, they entered the room and Presto-A Magician was discovered!”
“I made another—and very sweet—appearance just a year later. A narrow, dark and very steep flight of stairs led from our upper hall to the big friendly kitchen where the family had gathered for Christmas breakfast. Since no one ever used these stairs Mother had set platters of candy there to harden. Dad and I were late so, to save time, we started down those dark stairs. After he stepped into the first platter of candy we were tobogganing! Gathering both speed and sweetness we crashed through the kitchen door amid a mess of caramels, fudge and chocolate creams. There was no applause, no request for a repeat performance.
From that day on, life as a Magician has continued to be an interesting one. Entering school just increased my opportunities to get into trouble, which—with minor respites—has continued all through life.”
Around 1912, Frank accepted a position with the General Electric company in Schenectady, NY, who then sent him to Los Angeles, CA. This was when his adventurist side came to life, as he was intrigued by both nature and lighting. After he settled into this new environment, he decided to live in the wilderness area of the Sierra Madre mountains north-east of Pasadena where he built his first cabin.
Frank named his cabin, ‘Wa-wan’. He built it from 1914-1915, and it was located in a secluded ravine in the mountains north of the town, Sierra Madre, CA. In 1916, he homesteaded a little more than 44-acres further west of this location just north of what is now considered, Altadena, CA. Frank called it “Golden Valley” and it was here that he built another cabin called, ‘Palawoo’—“Bird’s nest” (a native American word). This cabin was built in one of his adjoining valleys he called, “Valley of the Voices”.
Ultimately, both cabins burned from natural fires—Palawoo burned down on October 23, 1935. Also, the Palawoo cabin was where he lived while building the home for his wife, Leona and himself. They were married on May 12, 1924, and construction started in 1923 for this main home, which he called, “The Citadel”.
In 1920, Frank was assigned to work as a foreign representative and sales engineer for the Anderson-Meyers company LTD. in Shanghai, China. He served in this position for almost two years and then went on to spend ten months travelling many parts of the world for recreational travel. His travels took him through the S. China seas, Philipines, Borneo, Singapore, Java, Malasia, Burma, India, Tibet, Straits Settlements Arabia, Czecho-Slovakia, British India, Austrailia, Ports of call Italy, Switzerland, Spain, France, Germany, England, Scotland, Belgium, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Constanople, New Guinea, and Syria. It was quite an amazing journey.
There are many stories and documented accounts of these travels, which is amazing in itself. But, this accounting only serves to identify his past excursions. On his 47th birthday in 1932, he was discharged from G.E. having served a solid 19 years.
For those of us involved with the art and discipline of landscape lighting, 1933 was the year to identify as the beginning this establishment. By this time, Frank had developed a powerful relationship with nature and with lighting, so he had the vision to illuminate the beauty of these spaces at night. He began developing ideas and prototypes of light fixtures that would mimic plants or things you would find in these outdoor environments. He did so within his garage work shop until his business venture got off the ground.
Frank started the Kim Manufacturing Co. in 1934 and produced the first garden lighting catalog in this industry. Although all of the lighting equipment utilized 120-volt power, he successfully developed a means for the design and installation of these products. In addition to this specialty, he established a side-business that provided event lighting for outdoor parties and gatherings. Much of this business served the wealthy—they spared no expense to entertain in this fashion. Frank displays a wonderful list of these customers in his “Lighting as an Art” book.
By this time, Frank and Leona had three young children—Peter, Wanda and Nancy. Each of the children had worked in the business once they reached an appropriate age to do so. But, it was Nancy who spent most of her time learning the business. Frank operated these businesses out of another building on his property that acted as his workshop-studio, entertaining courtyard, and living quarters, as it was a two story building with surrounding viewing decks. It also had an outdoor fireplace and grotto setting, which allowed him to feature some of his lighting.
It is very interesting to note that Frank developed a controlled production of this night time viewing, as a theatrical event. He scripted every part of his displays and movement around this area of the property, because he would invite customers and guests to experience this. Timers would activate at particular times to turn on specific lights, which provided an enchanting or magical experience to this. We can now see that Frank’s abilities as a magician were utilized in this experience to make these visits unforgettable. Additionally, he would utilize music in these settings to enhance these opportunities even more.
Frank operated and built the Kim lighting business from 1934 until 1952, when he retired at the age of 67 years old. He sold the company to his daughter Nancy and her husband, Bill Eppard. Bill had spent a solid year working side-by-side with Frank to ensure a smooth transition. The Eppards continued the business until 1965 when they decided to sell it to Progress Lighting. They retained Bill on staff until 1970, as president.
Once the Eppards retired from the business, the company went through several buy-outs and name changes. In 1966 Progress Lighting merged with the Walter-Kidde Co., which later was acquired by United Technologies in 2005. And, in the next couple years it was sold to Hubbell Lighting, which still retained the Kim Lighting name. This is its final resting place, as it stands today. However, the vision originally began by Frank Nightingale is no longer, due to the loss of his presence and exposure to this industry.
Once Frank retired from the business, he and Leona decided to relocate to a property they purchased in Skyforest, CA (Lake Arrowhead region)—a beautiful cabin home that overlooked part of the lake. By 1967, they had sold their property in Golden Valley and Frank concentrated on writing his three books.
The first of the three books he wrote was called, “Garden Lighting” in 1958, which is primarily what this website is focused upon—the art, craft and discipline of landscape lighting. Frank’s second book was called, “Lighting as an Art” in 1962, which featured his event’s lighting business. And lastly, his final book which was dedicated to the art of magic called, “Magic for Magicians” in 1964. The wonderful thing about this last book is that he had included a autobiographical section about his early life in the business.
On April 18, 1965, Frank quietly passed that day, Easter Sunday. Forever, he should be remembered for his great passion in this art-form and profession, and for the vision to establish this profession—he is the “father of garden lighting”.
"This book is a re-publication effort to preserve the history of what Frank B. Nightingale created. It has all of the original writings, descriptions, and sketches by Frank taken from his book, "Garden Lighting" (1958). However, Michael Gambino and myself (Mark Carlson) included additional content to support his work, such as photos and commentary. This effort was published in 2013.
This re-publication intended to preserve history--the history of this art form and discipline in landscape lighting design. Mike and I wanted to ensure that the future generations of lighting designers could access this information without too much trouble, as there are only a limited number of original copies left in circulation."
‘The Discipline’, which discusses the practice of this art form. It also serves to describe the “why” and importance of what we do in Landscape Lighting Design-Installation. The most important element to any discipline (the study) is in having a Passion for what you are performing.
Because this website serves as a tribute to Mr. Frank B. Nightingale, it will be stressed that there is great importance in both “why” we illuminate these gardens, and “how” we do so. This page is an attempt to portray the dedication that Mr. Nightingale had in being disciplined to this overall study. And in using the word, ‘study’ this means that we should never stop studying—it’s a life-long process.
When we address the “why” of this effort, one must have an understanding of the ‘whole’—the environment in which we work (nature and exterior landscapes), the science of light, the emotional value of the effects of light through vision to stimulate the brain, and the characteristics of solids and liquids when illuminated. Each of these elements combines to develop the scene—that which is experienced by the viewer.
Please note that we state the word “experienced” in the above statement. This is the true measure of one’s ability or talent. Many can illuminate a garden setting, but how many can achieve true success in doing so? ‘Learning’ and learning to visualize, or to know how to apply light for a desired purpose, or to know how much light is enough for the mood—these are all crucial to understanding this art-form. The question to ask is how can one effectively be classified as an expert in this craft without having the understanding of this ‘whole’? This cannot be learned in one seminar or after a few years of installing lights. It takes years, as with any art to master these skills.
The most important attribute one can display in their work
Passion is the driving force within anyone in any profession. It’s the fire of life that will allow you to achieve greater success. Passion encourages us to learn more, do more, and to never give up. Frank B. Nightingale had great passion for this discipline. He established high standards to work with, all of which were governed by three key principles:
These three principles should be used as a measure in your own work. Question yourself:
Although this short list only asked a few basic questions, it should lend itself for you to question where you personally stand.
To date, there is no governing authority to oversee the standards and practices of the landscape lighting trade. This has been and continues to be a serious problem that is undermining problem that has held back professionalism and respect in our industry. Because we lack any authority, the efforts of those truly performing at high standards are minimalized due to the relentless actions of poor providers with poor practices. Additionally, each of the United States has a different set of rules or expectations, and some states utilize no rules to govern our work.
In an effort to change this status quo, the Experiential Landscape Lighting Initiative (ELLI) has set its course to change this lack of governance. They have developed a well-thought-out educational program to serve anyone interested in landscape lighting design knowledge and advancement. It is their goal to be a leading entity and authority in 'landscape lighting design' by 2025-2026.
ELLI is the most fitting entity to take an authoritative role because they are not constrained or beholden to outside influences. There are three primary reasons for this:
"Have you ever watched the yuccas bloom,
In the rays of a setting sun.
Seen the cream of its petals turn to gold,
When the busy day is done.
Sit on a rock, where the grease-wood wastes,
Stretches out upon every side.
You see them dotted, here and there,
With nothing their glory to hide.
God's candles they call them, and how true,
When you see them in the night.
Beneath the vault of heavens blue,
With the stars their only light.
You bow your head to the God above,
Who makes the green things grow.
Gives them strength, hope and life,
In this paradise here below."
It's important to note that Michael Gambino and I (Mark Carlson) have dedicated this site to the preservation of Mr. Nightingales history. We share in the continuous collection of information and have an inventory of Nightingale personal items. Please contact us, or Mark (site administrator) for any items you would like to share or contribute to this effort.