HILL’S CALL BOXES
is a "call box"?
at the turn of the 20th century, before telephones and cell
phones were common, there were ornamental iron "call boxes"
on poles at many street corners throughout the city.
They were used by residents to turn in a fire alarms or by the
police officers on patrol to check in with the precinct house.
By the 1970s, the police had other means of checking back to
the precinct house and the number of false fire alarms caused problems
for the fire department. The
911 emergency system was instituted and the police and fire call boxes
Capitol Hill Call Box Project is an effort to save, rehabilitate and
recycle the old police and fire call boxes that still exist in the
greater Capitol Hill community. This
is part of a citywide effort under the auspices of the DC Heritage
Tourism Coalition, DC Commission on Arts and Humanities and the
Downtown DC Business Improvement District.
Participating neighborhood groups will turn this historic
street furniture into neighborhood icons that reflect the unique
history and culture of their communities.
Historic District Committee of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society is
serving as the coordinating organization for greater Capitol Hill –
the Historic District, Stanton Park Neighborhood Association, Capitol
Hill - Navy Yard, Capitol Hill East, and North Lincoln Park. The
Earth Conservation Corps and Barracks Row/Main Street
have also been involved in the project.
box will have a theme that reflects something about the neighborhood
– some one who lived there, some building, some tradition (like a
block party, for instance), or a more “generic” topic, such as
trees on Capitol Hill. Artists
will decorate the box exteriors and create “plaques” or pieces of
art using old photographs, quotes from long-time residents, poems that
capture the spirit of the place, or notes on historic events or
personalities. These will
be affixed within the boxes.
can I get involved?
Call Box Project is powered by volunteers.
With over 100 call boxes in the Capitol Hill community, there
is a need for many volunteers with many different skills.
individual box will need an artist to work on the design, of course,
but each box will also need someone to research or write the
information, raise funds to manufacture the plaque or art work,
coordinate all the workers, paint the final coats, and monitor the
condition of the box after it has been finished. We also need
people to help with community-wide tasks – getting out notices of
meetings and information about the program to groups, work with
schools if they are interested in the project. If
you’d like to get involved, please contact the coordinator
through the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CapHRS@aol.com;
543-0425) or directly (Nancy Metzger, 546-1034; email@example.com).