What the Helen of Troy are These?

“Dear PoPville,

Have been meaning to send in a pic of this for a year now. From Capitol Hill on C Street SE between 8th and 9th. Any idea what the orange reflector-things are above the garages? Apologies if you’ve covered this before.”

We once looked into this a few years ago. If memory serves I think it was once attached to an old fire alarm or security alarm system. When the alarm went off the light above the garage would go off. Anyone know if this was for a fire alarm or a security alarm? Anyone know when they become popular – the 60s? I’ve seen a bunch of these in Logan Circle as well.

6 Comment

  • Definitely some sort of security/emergency alarm. If the alarm goes off, the light goes which makes it easier for first responders to find the right house quickly. This is especially useful when housing units are compacted tightly together and/or the housing address numbers are difficult to see from the road. It’s not so much an issue nowadays, with GPS units and digital maps. But back in the day – when people had to rely on paper maps – this made emergencies much easier to handle.

  • Yep. When I lived on the Hill a couple of years ago we had a neighbor whose flashing light would go off every year or two when they had to call an ambulance in the middle of the night.

  • Those cars are parked illegally! Not only is it illegal to park in a driveway in the historic district, it’s also illegal to park on the sidewalk, blocking the right of way of the disabled. It’s so gross.

    And the residents on this block do it daily, so clearly not even the city cares that these people deprive the disabled from equal access. Disgusting.

    • What? I don’t believe this is true? Is there anyone else who is able to confirm one way or the other if parking in a driveway in a historic district is illegal? That doesn’t sound right or reasonable to me.

  • Thanks, PoP, for posting! Thanks, zero_sum, for the answer — it’s been driving me nuts walking past and wondering!
    As for the whole parking thing, I don’t want to go into the legality of it — but just wanted to point out that with these houses the sidewalk is extra wide and there is plenty of room to walk two or three people across, even when a car is in a driveway.

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