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Ott's Esso Arboretum: 1937

Ott's Esso Arboretum: 1937

July 1937. "Gas station in Washington, D.C." Ott's Esso Service, providing our second example in as many weeks of gas-station faux flora. Maybe this was a thing back then. Medium format negative by John Vachon. View full size.


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30th & M Street?

Based on this image from the DDOT library it could be the corner of 30th and M Streets.

Not streetcars or trolleys

The fact that there are 3 'rails' reveals that this is a cable car system of the type that still runs in San Francisco.

[Most of the system was electrically powered. Streetcars got their juice through a "foot" that ran in the center groove. - Dave]

It's at the corner of what and what?

I knew this photo looked familiar. That nifty book of vanished DC, "On This Spot," lists this station as being located at 36th and M Streets NW, over in Georgetown. (Page 194 for those of us that want to check). Given the incline of the street seen at the left side of the photo, and streetcar tracks embedded in the street in the foreground, this seems a likely location.

[There were numerous Ott Esso stations in the District. - Dave]

Re: Triangulation

Based on the mountain at the back of the picture (which by the way looks strangely like the Paramount Pictures logo), I'd guess we could "roughly pinpoint" the location to exactly somewhere on Planet Earth; more or less.

So much to see

Laundry out on several clothes lines drying. A couple of great looking convertibles, especially the car on the left side street. The rumble seat open on the other, and it with no windshield! The the fellow looking under the coupe on the far right. And finally the person on the 3rd floor shaking out their throw rug from the window. All at 4:45 PM on another typical summer day!

One-Stop Service

Ott's Service Station was located at 12th and H Streets N.W. but branch locations included 923 H St. N.W., 7th and Rhode Island Ave. N.W, and Sherman Ave. and Park Rd. N.W. The corner at 12th and H has been entirely rebuilt since 1937 which challenges the ability to definitively connect this photo with that location.

[As indicated by the sign on the mural, the name of the business was Ott's Service Stations, plural, with every station being a "branch." - Dave]

I am in total agreement with stevendm on the impressive craftsmanship of the paved street stonework.

Hopefully some DC historical trolley buff might be able to collaborate one of the above locations of Ott's Service Stations with the location of tracks along a route of the 1930s streetcar system.

Feat of clay

Love the fancy brickwork in the road.


This looks like it might be on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, maybe around P or Q Streets.


Can anyone roughly pinpoint the location of this gas station based on the distances to the cities on the chart?

["Roughly pinpoint" -- phrase of the day! - Dave]

Gas art

Reminiscent of gas station road maps of the period, like this one that's been in our family since the year one, as my mother would say.

Coin changer

A classic from the days when every transit operator carried and received and processed cash. The metallic sound of it was hypnotic, more so in the hands of a skillful and experienced change-maker. I had one of my own at home and would gladly make change for anyone who asked. Still made by a company named McGill, in Illinois.

Doing it right

There's so much to love in this shot: the two attendants (the guy with no coin changer is probably in training) in the middle of the photo just waiting for their next customer, the (rare) convenient soda bottle machine (certainly 5 cents per 6-oz. bottle) next to the pumps, and the helpful "distance to" signs on the back wall.

And what IS that four-story building where the mural is painted? The gas station office is apparently on the right side, where all the action is.

Wonderful slice of life from an era where a fill-up probably cost 85 cents.

[The other "attendant" is wearing mechanic's coveralls. - Dave]

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