(front)Restoration of Georgetown's Call Boxes
Almost a miniature Gothic cathedral, Christ Church behind you was built in 1885. It is the third building to occupy the spot since a group of Georgetown Episcopalians founded the parish in 1817. Among the founders were Francis Scott Key, author of The Star-Spangled Banner, an old-moneyed, landowning families with Maryland and Virginia ties and a southern orientation. A total interior restoration of the sanctuary was finished in 2003, bringing the church close to its original appearance.
During the Civil War, sentiment for the Confederacy was strong among many parishioners. The rector, a Virginian, refused to offer prayers for President Lincoln and a Union victory. After Lincoln's assassination, Christ Church tolled its bells and draped its façade in black, as much in grief for the defeat of the Confederacy and the loss of so many of its young men as for the President. In the late 19th century, Christ Church continued to be the spiritual home for many of the old-line Southern Sympathizers, known as the Georgetown Assembly.
Britannia Peter Kennon, Martha Washington's great-granddaughter recalled that after the Civil War she and her cousin Robert E. Lee attended Christ Church during his stay at Tudor Place, one of Washington's oldest and most historic houses. Britannia and her sisters
Columbia and America grew up at the grand Tudor Place, just up 31st Street. They were daughters of Martha Custis and Thomas Peter, and granddaughters of the first mayor of Georgetown, Robert Peter.
Christ Church Parish Hall, the old Linthicum Institute 3116 O Street, was built in 1887 as a boys' school; the second floor auditorium was for decades the setting for the Georgetown Assembly's dances. The building two doors west of the hall housed the Lancaster School, founded in 1810 to offer free education to boys and girls, marking advent of public education for girls in the District of Columbia.
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 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 system 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
District Department of Transportation
Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
Citizens Association of Georgetown
Christ Church, Georgetown