JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Senate Beer: 1942

1942. "Effect of gasoline shortage in Washington, D.C." Note the streetcar control tower. Photo by Albert Freeman, Office of War Information. View full size.

1942. "Effect of gasoline shortage in Washington, D.C." Note the streetcar control tower. Photo by Albert Freeman, Office of War Information. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Streetcar Switch Tower

First of all, there were also streetcar tracks on 14th Street out of view to the left.

The streetcar switch tower had controls for the track switches. It could control the track switches at 14th Street and New York Ave, allowing for a turn from 14th Street north of the intersection to New York Avenue west of the intersection. But this wasn't a common turn.

It may well have also controlled the very complicated track switches at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue, 15th Street, New York Avenue, and G Street. That was the busiest and most congested point on the Capital Transit streetcar system.

1939 Graham

Glad someone else noticed the Sharknose Graham. I was hoping to spot one on Shorpy someday. I can say I am the proud owner of a Supercharged 1939 model. Great car.

Well, looky there

Parked on the side street, below the round-topped awnings: a "sharknose" Graham. Fewer than 8,800 built, 1938-1940.

Parking Lot Items

Although I would like to have any car in this lot.
The one that would be the hardest to find nowadays is the 1942 Oldsmobile "76" or "78" Dynamic Cruiser 2dr fastback that is entering the the lot. I tried to find a restored or original picture on the net and none came up that were close to this model on the GM "B" body with full trim. Rare find indeed.

Not lost to time yet

The last example of the towers can be seen here.

Jackie O worked there

I believe the building directly behind the sign and steeple was the home of The Washington Times-Herald where Jackie O worked as a photographer out of college.


A couple of nice looking Buicks front and center. On the left a '39, hard to tell, but most likely a Century. On the right a '40 with fender mounts, either a Century or a Limited. The '40 Roadmaster did not have fender mounts.

My Mom had a '39 Century sedan, robin's egg blue, when she met my Dad. She always said it was the car that attracted him!

Stinky Trees

Folks in the DC area know the powerful and nasty smell of the ginkgo tree. I see folks harvesting the nuts from the trees at certain times of the year but I don't know anyone who has ever eaten any of them.

Street Car Switch Tower

Washington Post, December 27, 1908.

Plan Novel Switches

Railways are Installing Safety System at Station.

An electrically operated street railway switch system, the only one of its kind in this country, is now under course of construction at the plaza in front of Union Station and at three adjacent switching points. The system will be interlocking, and if it meets the expectations of its designers, will be absolutely collision-proof.

The switching apparatus is being installed by the American Automatic Switch Company, and James L. Parsons, the local contractor, has been awarded the contract of erecting five switch towers, which will be one of the unique features of the system. The design and plans for these towers were prepared by Arthur B. Heaton, an architect of this city. …

The lower portion of the towers is to be constructed of cast iron and the upper part will be of ornamental copper work. The roofs will be red tile. The towers will closely resemble huge lamp posts. The upper portion of the structures will be eight-sided, and will be about 6 feet in diameter. The sides will be inclosed by leaded glass windows. Entrance to the towers will be by a trap door and the ornamental work about the support will serve as footholds in climbing to the upper portion.

In each of the towers there will be a set of levers, which will control the electrical devices operating the switches, and a similar set of levers for operating the signal lights. The interesting portion of the apparatus will be a miniature diagram of the switches operated from that point. The diagram will be on exact reproduction of the switch system, and will show each one of the switches and signal lights.…

Washington Post, February 13, 1941.

‘Old Bill’ One of Remaining Street Car
Tower Switchmen

For more than 30 years, William R. (Old Bill) Mansfield, 54, of 206 Third Street Southeast, has been routing street cars from his perch in the control tower at Fifteenth Street and New York Avenue Northwest. One of Capital Transit Co.'s oldest employees, Mansfield learned his unusual trade by operating an old manual-controlled tower switch at Union Station in 1908. He has been switching street cars, at a rate of several hundred daily, almost continuously ever since.

“This job isn't what is used to be,” he said yesterday. “In the old days we would pull the switches over by hand and sometimes they would freeze and wouldn't pull at all.”

Then, too, before the days of electric controls, Mansfield said the switchman would occasionally pull the switch too soon and the front wheels of a street car would make a turn while the rear wheels continued on a straight track.

And the salary wasn't too good, either, amounting to $1.25 for a 10-hour day. He gets more now.

His job now is easier, because of the electric push-button system used to switch the tracks, “but you still have to keep alert—there ain't time to read magazines when you're in the tower,” he says.

Operating switches both at Fifteenth and New York and at Fifteenth and G Streets, Mansfield has to keep continuously on the lookout for street car numbers. His biggest problem is in recognizing the destination sign on cars during snowstorms and heavy rains.

In the tower are two switch controls and three small lights, blue for straight, amber for curved track and white which shows when the car is passing over the switch. These must be watched to keep cars from taking the wrong route.

NY Ave Presbyterian Redux

Technically speaking, the church is still there, but a new structure built in 1951 replaces the one seen here. Today-- lots of ginkgo bilobas along E Street around First & Second Streets N.W.

New York Avenue Presbyterian Church

New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is in the background.. and is still there.

Faith Temple uses the Lincoln Chapel of The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church..

The Rev. Peter Marshall preached many famous sermons there during World War II. The book and feature film, A Man Called Peter, depict Marshall's years at the church.

Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Harrison, James K. Polk, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Harrison, Dwight David Eisenhower, and Richard Milhous Nixon all attended The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church

Streetcar tower

I'm having trouble visualizing how a person gets into that thing. That stool doesn't seem up to the job. A person would have to be pretty agile to get up there.

[There's a thing that pulls down so you can climb up. - Dave]

Same Bonds, Different Day

Note the change on the billboard ad for bonds from Defense Department to War Department. Their post-12/7 was like our post-9/11.

What is the name

of those bizarro looking trees?

[Ginkgo biloba. - Dave]

Mmm . . . government beer

On the other hand, I've had government cheese and it wasn't too bad.

I need a time machine

Windows are open on the streetcar control tower, so we expect it's still in use. No one appears to be on duty right now. Yet, where are the streetcar tracks?

It seems likely that the tracks here have been removed, and that nice new-looking pavement has replaced them.

But what is the real story? When were D.C.'s tracks removed? I need to open a cool, refreshing Senate Beer and contemplate all this. After all, the time is now.

[The tracks are to the right on New York Avenue. - Dave]

14th and New York Avenue NW

The church on the right is Faith Temple on New York Avenue.


Clearly this is 14th Street, but what's the cross street? And check out those wonderful streetsigns. And the Capital Traction workman's cart is pretty great too.

[Capital Transit. - Dave]

Heurich Brewing Company

A DC institution for several generations, alas gone by 1956 due to the construction of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and the general economic outlook for small, regional breweries. The Heurich family manor still stands as a museum, one of the few stately homes remaining in the Dupont Circle area.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Accessibility Statement | Site © 2023 Shorpy Inc.