Some old history for the new year.

Happy 2011, to all you readers and fellow bloggers alike!

I thought it might be appropriate, even as we venture into the second decade of the third millennium, to share some history that I came across just a few days shy of the New Year.

“Original artwork of Old Engine 15”, © Michael McGurk

Inspired by an image on the cover of the most recent Capital City Firefighter magazine, I re-read the brief history posted online about the DC Fire Department. Specifically, I was scanning for this:

April 15, 1898: Engine Company 15 was placed in service at Washington & Pierce Streets, Anacostia (these streets are now 14th & V Streets S. E. respectively).  Engine 15 went in service with an 1883 Clapp & Jones 450 GPM steam fire engine and an 1889 McDermott Bros. hose reel carriage.

Well, since the street names have changed, what else about the area would have changed? My next step was finding a historic map, circa 1898.

Apparently, the University of Alabama has a serious thing about maps—their archive is quite impressive. I was able to secure three maps that I liked (as always, click for higher resolution):

The first is a portion of a US Army Corps of Engineers map from 1890. Originally drawn to show which parts of the city were damaged by sewage during a flood in June of 1889, this map had the best view of Southeast Washington on the far side of the Anacostia River. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s the intersection of Washington and Pierce Streets. I was, however, unable to find out when the streets changed their names. I suppose Anacostia (or “Uniontown,” as it was called when it was developed as a suburb) didn’t adopt the lettered/numbered street naming system until later—even though it had already been incorporated into the city of Washington by 1878. The second is a whole map from 1895, which is a detailed map of what they called the “main portion” (mostly Northwest) of D.C. This map looks very similar in style to the Rand-McNally maps we still use; even though the hyphenated term is a household name today, this map is so old that William Rand himself was CEO of the company for four more years after this was produced.

The final map is actually dated 1898, and it’s a chunk of an old US Geological Survey map. The streets aren’t written out too well, but I like how the neighborhoods are labeled in relation to one another.


Anyways, I had a good time digging up these pieces of history and I thought some of you might enjoy ’em. I’m sure there are some old photographs kicking around the firehouse that I could put up, too. We’ll see—I’ll be sure to check during my next shift.

Now, if I could just get my hands on a copy of the highly-desirable “100 Years of Glory…”


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