You are standing in the heart of a once thriving African American community. At the time of the American Revolution in 1776, one third of Georgetown's population was African American. By the time of the Civil War in the 1860s, many former slaves had set up households and small businesses. Black churches, such as Jerusalem Baptist Church at 26th Street dating from the early 1900s, also flourished. This part of Georgetown was known as Herring Hill, named after the fish caught nearby in Rock Creek, and it thrived well into the 1930s.
At the top of 27th Street is a path that leads to Mt. Zion Cemetery, where a tomb hidden in the hillside was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Next to the cemetery is Dumbarton House, headquarters of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America. This house was First Lady Dolley Madison's first stop when she fled from British burning of the White House in the War of 1812. But she refused to abandon Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington, removed it from its frame, and sent it safely as well as the red velvet draperies from what is known today as the Blue Room.
Restoration of Georgetown's Call Boxes
Georgetown's Call Box restoration project is
part of a city-wide effort to rescue the District's abandoned fire and police call boxes. Known as Art on Call, the project has identified more than 800 boxes for restoration. Neighborhood by neighborhood, they are being put to new use as permanent displays of local art, history and culture. The Georgetown project highlights the anecdotal history of Georgetown and its unique heritage as a thriving colonial port town that predated the District of Columbia.
Police alarm boxes such as this one (originally painted blue) were established for police use starting in the 1880s. An officer on foot - as most were in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - used the box to check in regularly with his precinct or to call for backup if needed. The police boxes were locked, opened and by a big brass key that officers carried. Inside was a telephone that automatically dialed the precinct's number. Checking in regularly was a way to make sure the patrolman was doing his job, and also a way to make sure he was safe. Use of the call box systems began to decline in the 1960s with the advent of two-way car radios and walkie-talkies. The phones were finally disconnected in the 1970s and replaced with today's 911 emergency system.
Art on Call is a program of Cultural Tourism DC
with support from
DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, DC Creates Public Art Program
Department of Transportation
Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
Citizens Association of Georgetown
Residents of 2711 P Street N.W.
William J. McNamara, Santos Jésus Gonzalez
Robert E. McNamara