Capital Traction Company Union Station

This site’s infamous appearance in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist sometimes overshadows its architectural importance and its historical significance in early urban transportation.

Located in the Georgetown Historic District in Northwest Washington, the Capital Traction Company Union Station (Capital Traction) property includes the central structure (also referred to as the Georgetown Car Barn), the adjacent stone retaining wall, and the inset stone stairway used in the 1973 film The Exorcist (colloquially known as the Exorcist Steps).

Developed between 1894 and 1897, this property is historically significant as a streetcar station, storage garage, and turn around for four independently owned streetcar lines in the District. Designed by prominent Washington architect Waddy Butler Wood, Capital Traction Station was the first of its kind in the District—and initially provided the only cable loop in Washington. The building retains most of its signature elements, such as the arched streetcar entrances, a projecting tower, and the monogrammed pediment labeling the station.

Not only did Capital Traction provided a crucial transportation service for residents in Maryland, Virginia, and DC, but it completed a unique feat of engineering. Faced with a steep 60-foot descent from Prospect Street to M Street, the construction of the station required an extensive excavation to remove soil and “rotten rock” from the building site. For this reason, the site may be archeologically valuable and could contain nineteenth century artifacts.

Today, the once bustling hub of transportation remains useful as one of Georgetown University’s educational buildings—and one of DC’s tourist attractions. After the stone stairway’s 1973 appearance in the internationally recognized film The Exorcist, the steps became a prominent destination and well-known tourist stop. In 2015, Mayor Muriel Bowser placed a plaque on the retaining wall to acknowledge the significance of the steps to the District’s tourism industry.

DC Inventory: January 24, 2019
National Register: August 9, 2019
Within Georgetown Historic District



3600-3601 M Street NW Washington DC 20007