Vintage looking "light box" on home exterior?

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Forum topic by jimintx posted 12-04-2019 04:04 PM 718 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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934 posts in 2195 days

12-04-2019 04:04 PM

This box, that appears to have a light in the center, is on the exterior wall of a mid-70s house on my street in Houston. It faces the street, and is mounted under the eaves of the one story exterior wall.

None of us in the neighborhood, including the current owners of the home, know anything about it. It has the look of some type of emergency signal, or locator light – but that is a guess, and there is no guess on how it works.

I wondered if anyone amongst the LJ crowd that might see this post knows what these things are/were.

Any ideas, thoughts, or actual knowledge? Replies appreciated!

-- Jim, Houston, TX

25 replies so far

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7709 posts in 1595 days

#1 posted 12-04-2019 06:23 PM

maybe an alarm system,have you tried tracing the wires to see what it’s connected too,if possible?

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

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30 posts in 135 days

#2 posted 12-04-2019 06:37 PM

reminds me of some sort of an air raid siren from WW 2

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1041 posts in 1162 days

#3 posted 12-04-2019 06:39 PM

One if by land and two if by sea

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

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967 posts in 525 days

#4 posted 12-04-2019 07:04 PM

+1 Looks like and old, rusty alarm box with a faded-out yellow/orange alert light. Break into the house and see what happens!!

-- Marty, Long Island, NY

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4670 posts in 1185 days

#5 posted 12-05-2019 12:01 AM

+1 Looks like and old, rusty alarm box with a faded-out yellow/orange alert light. Break into the house and see what happens!!

- MSquared

-- Think safe, be safe

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967 posts in 525 days

#6 posted 12-05-2019 12:13 AM

Well, yes. That’s to be expected! ;)

-- Marty, Long Island, NY

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2398 posts in 1214 days

#7 posted 12-05-2019 12:29 AM

+1 Looks like and old, rusty alarm box with a faded-out yellow/orange alert light. Break into the house and see what happens!!

- MSquared

+1 The vents on it make it more than just a light. Looks like it has 2 leads. One in a conduit for power and one that goes back inside maybe for a button? Maybe somebody was disabled??

-- Andy - Seattle USA

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3001 posts in 1551 days

#8 posted 12-05-2019 12:58 AM

Back in the 70s, we had a lake house that didn’t get used much durning the Winter. We used to place a device in the window facing the road that looked similar to that pictured. It was to alert the neighbors that the heating system was off and the pipes were at risk of freezing and know to call someone. The box had an internal thermometer set for 55 degrees. If temps dropped below that, it would illuminate. Ours plugged into a wall socket, but this one could serve the same purpose but looks to be hardwired, with another wire connected to either a thermostat or the heating system. Or it’s just part of an old security alarm :)

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

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2273 posts in 2105 days

#9 posted 12-05-2019 12:58 AM

Hmm, color me curious!
Can you show a picture of the inside of the box, please?

Sort of reminds me of the old (30/40’s) warning box found on Railroad crossings? That box would be mounted on side of transformer power cabinet next to road/crossing. The warning system was ancient vacuum tube and relay based detect/timer system. It used as much power as hair drier today. If it is one, the plastic light fixture on top is not the original version. It looks like a modern replacement from 60-70’s, when they removed vacuum tubes from RR controls.
That was a common control box design back before transistors. The air raid warning boxes from WWI/WWII looked same, but were deeper to hold the siren, and had louvers on side too.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

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934 posts in 2195 days

#10 posted 12-05-2019 04:34 PM

Thanks to all –
It remains a somewhat unsolved mystery, but I believe there is agreement that this thing is a warning, emergency type signal.
There’s no good or simple opportunity to trace wires as they go into the eave and disappear, so to speak. The current owner has no idea, and didn’t happen to learn about this box when they bought the home a few years back.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

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460 posts in 2532 days

#11 posted 12-06-2019 12:39 AM

In the house are there any ~2”x3”X1-1/2” brass looking boxes on the ceiling?
If so it’s fire alarm. .Honeywell. iirc.

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934 posts in 2195 days

#12 posted 12-14-2019 08:41 PM

I asked the owner if there was a “big red emergency button” or similar somewhere inside the house. She said they’d never noted one.

Maybe it was there once, and it’s since removed, and the sheetrock was repaired to conceal the location.

The husband works out of town for extended periods, but I will ask him once I see him around again.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

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934 posts in 2195 days

#13 posted 12-29-2019 04:14 PM

I got to ask over Christmas, and the owners say they have no idea about what this box is, or was.

Thanks for all the thoughts about this, while it remains an unidentified curiosity.


-- Jim, Houston, TX

View controlfreak's profile


415 posts in 212 days

#14 posted 12-29-2019 04:39 PM

Back in the day before sirens we had alarm “bells”. The basic ones were just a bell in a metal cabinet with a tamper switch on the front door and back. The more advanced ones had an outer cabinet insulated from an interior bell cabinet to detect an attempt to drill between the two. This one may be a 120V version which was popular when alarms were run off dry cell batteries. The strobe light on the front was added after the fact to give it a visual indicator. It is also likely that the old bell has been removed and replaced by a siren or speaker at some point in its life. If removing check for live 120v circuits and be ready to battle rust, bees etc.

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516 posts in 3805 days

#15 posted 12-29-2019 04:46 PM

The cover has hinges on one side. Can’t they just open it up and see what’s inside? If it were my house my curiosity would have been satisfied a long time ago.

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