Ever wondered what these large iron objects on the street corners of D.C. are?
At the turn of the 20th Century, before the telephone was in common use, these iron sculptures served as call boxes in order to quickly reach emergency services through the use of telegraph. The two shapes and styles of the call box helped distinguish between police call boxes and fire call boxes. If there was a fire nearby, people could run to the nearest call box and report the incident. Police officers patrolling the neighborhood would use the call boxes to check in with their precincts.
The call boxes remained in place even during World War II when many cities collected scrap metal to support the war effort. They were in use for many decades, until advances in technology, such as the use of radios and better equipment, allowed emergency services to respond without using the call box system. When the call boxes were decommissioned in the 1970s, many were left in place, as they were costly to remove, eventually falling into disrepair.
Starting in 2020, the District of Columbia Daughters of the American Revolution have been working to restore several call boxes located on Capitol Hill. First, an assessment of the condition of the call boxes was conducted and DC Daughters documented whether the call boxes were in poor, fair or excellent condition. While some call boxes are a bit rusty with chipping paint, there are several that are missing pieces, and some where only the base is left.
Through this page, you can see the transformation of these call boxes from disrepair to restoration. Click below to learn more each call box.
Check out all the Call Boxes
3rd St @ D St NE (300 D St NE)