Georgetown in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Volunteerism and Valor
Before there was a DC Fire Department, companies from two then-separate towns — Georgetown and Washington — provided local fire protection. In 1789, Georgetown citizens purchased a hand-pumped engine and fire buckets with funds raised during a lively mass meeting. The Georgetown volunteers comprised every male inhabitant old enough to vote. The Washington volunteers began operations in 1804 in a frame shed with an old hand engine. The two groups, valiant volunteers for most of their history, merged into the District of Columbia Fire Department Engine Company 5 in 1871. This company is now housed on Dent Place in Georgetown.
This fire department call box (read more history on the opposite side) is a reminder of past tragedies and triumphs. An 1899 newspaper reported that Policeman Charles Henry Steinbraker, a Georgetown resident, was walking along 31st Street when he saw smoke coming from the Gay Street Baptist Church at 31st and N. He ran to this call box and pulled down a lever to send an alarm. Although the response was speedy, high winds fanned the flames too rapidly to save the church, but firemen were able to save adjacent properties.
Five blocks southwest of here at 1066 Wisconsin Avenue is the Vigilant Firehouse, the oldest remaining firehouse structure in the city. A plaque near the
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.
Fire alarm boxes such as this one (originally painted red) were installed in the District after the Civil War. In most boxes, the alarm was activated by opening a door on the front of the box and pulling a lever. An automatic telegraph system transmitted the box number to a central office that directed the closest fire station to dispatch a fire truck to the vicinity of the call box. After almost 100 years, the system began to decline in the 1960s with the advent of two-way car radios and walkie-talkies. The alarms were finally turned off in the 1970s and replaced with the 911 emergency system.
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
G. Morris Steinbraker & Son, Inc.
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC.
Location. 38° 54.513′ N, 77° 3.683′ W. Marker is in Georgetown, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of O Street Northwest and 31st Street NW, on the right when traveling west on O Street Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20007, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Georgetown "Cathedral" (a few steps from this marker); The Cornerstone of the Original Christ Church (within shouting distance of this marker); Emma V. Brown Residence (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Presbyterian Congregation in George Town, (about 400 feet away); Dumbarton United Methodist Church (about 500 feet away); Tayloe/Snyder House (about 600 feet away); Historic Preservation in Georgetown (about 700 feet away); A Drugstore Like No Other (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Georgetown.
Categories. • Animals • Charity & Public Work • Churches & Religion • Disasters •
Credits. This page was last revised on February 11, 2018. This page originally submitted on January 27, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 40 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on January 27, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.