Residents and tourists of DC are no doubt familiar with the seemingly useless box/post fixtures on many street corners in the District. Back in the day (ca. 1860s), these wrought-iron fixtures served as emergency call boxes. They contained telephones with direct connections to the police station. Once a call was made, the globe on top of the pole would light up, indicating to arriving police officers where help was needed.
A century and a half later, many of these fixtures, too heavy to be removed, have fallen into disrepair. Since the call boxes were replaced with the 911 system in the 1970s, the phones in the call boxes have been removed, and many of the poles vary from drab shades of gray to dull shades of tan. However, since 2002, the Arts on Call project has worked to beautify over 100 call boxes by repainting and embellishing them. Here are some that you might see while walking around DC:
So the next time you see one of these things on the street corner, stop and take a moment to appreciate this valuable piece of DC history.