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Dear PoP – Old School Street Rails from 14th St, NW

by Prince Of Petworth April 8, 2010 at 12:10 am 16 Comments

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“Dear PoP,

I was walking home today along 14th St. in Columbia Heights and noticed this pile of steel in the middle of the road where demolition of the street is taking place.

It appears this is the old streetcar track from the line that used to run up 14th street during the first half of the 1900’s

As someone who loves old photos of neighborhoods, and any urban archaeological relic that speaks of a time gone by, this was a goldmine for me.

It made me a little sad to see them there, as I was the only one even looking at them, and thinking about how important they were when they once linked this part of the city to downtown D.C.
People drove by, horns were honking, a fire engine came blaring through, people strolled along with their headphones on, and others just gazed straight ahead without even glancing over to wonder what this discarded pile of junk even was.

I rushed home to get my camera and snapped some photos.”

Super cool. I look forward to their new cousins on H St, NE and later Georgia Ave, NW to become active!

  • I noticed the pile of old streetcar rails, too. To the original emailer, I’d love to have your photo in the Columbia Heights group on Flickr, and there’s also a group called Washington Ghosts (demolished buildings and long ago streetscapes) where your photo would be welcome. I agree it’s sad we junked a perfectly fine transit system all those years ago…

    • Mike B.

      Feel free to use Mr.T – I have poked around on your flickr site before…good stuff!
      Will check out “Washington Ghosts” as well.
      I’m sure you have seen, or have, the book “Capital Losses”…wonderful collection of lost, and demolished, architecture of DC.
      Sickening and sad to look at.

      • Yes, that’s one of my favorite DC history books!

  • Dittle

    Pretty amazing. Living here, one cannot deny that there is history at every turn. One of the coolest things I have noticed are the remains of old fort. For instance, there is a huge hill at the top of 13th st. before you get to Georgia Ave. in NW. That is the remains of Fort Stevens which now maintained as a park space. I passed by this spot a thousand times and one day just realized how amazing it was.

    • briefly

      And now Fort Stevens serve as a drinking spot, sleeping area, and giant trash bin for the local drunks.

  • Did you grab a section as a souvenir?

    • Mike B.

      hehe. No.

  • Posoin Paxn

    I kind of wish they were still buried under 14th Street. Just knowing they were down there was more comforting than seeing them hauled off for scrap.

  • mphs

    Aren’t those the frames for the curbs. The ones that were made of concrete had iron frames, but the new curbs are granite.

    • Mike

      No. They were definitely streetcar rails. You could see the trench in the middle of the road where they were digging them out. I got some good close-ups of them too.

  • Great stuff. Thanks to the anonymous contributor.

  • Mike

    Thanks all..
    I took some closeups of them as well. They are definitely the rail for the streetcar. You could still see some in the road at the other end, still buried under years of pavement.

  • Mike B.

    We have a photograph from the early 1950s, hanging in our Columbia Heights Condo lobby, and it is taken at this exact same spot.
    In the photo there is a streetcar with people boarding. I will see if I can take a picture of the photo, as it is hanging on the wall, and will send it to Pop for posting on this site.

    • Mike B

      I should say, it’s from the early 1940s…not 50s.

  • Mike B.

    We have a photograph from the early 1940s, hanging in our Columbia Heights Condo lobby, and it is taken at this exact same spot.
    In the photo there is a streetcar with people boarding. I will see if I can take a picture of the photo, as it is hanging on the wall, and will send it to Pop for posting on this site.

  • Chris D

    My boss scored one of the old rails and hauled it in to the office, now trying to figure out what to do with it ;)

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