DC's Landmarks of Transportation
From the beginning, DC has been shaped by new technologies and advancements in transportation. Early on, the District — specifically, Georgetown — was the starting point for the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal, an important linkage to the Ohio River Valley and points farther west. The canal, which follows the Potomac River, is now a National Historical Park and a popular destination for Washingtonians seeking to explore and enjoy both history and nature.
Like other American cities in the 19th and 20th centuries, railroads and streetcars were highly influential. Railroads connected Washington to other towns and cities, and, over a century later, Washington's Union Station still provides a grand entrance to the city for Amtrak, MARC, and VRE passengers.
Streetcars expanded Washington's neighborhoods and spurred the city's growth outward into what was then considered Washington County (generally, north of Georgetown and Florida Avenue, and east and southeast of the Anacostia River). With the arrival of streetcars, Washingtonians had the option of living farther out in new streetcar suburbs and commuting to work downtown.
As mid-century approached, buses were becoming the preferred method of public transportation, and streetcar lines were removed over a number of years. Nonetheless, some of the city's car barns have been preserved, including East Capitol Street Car Barn on Capitol Hill, the Capital Traction Company Car Barn on 14th Street NW, and Capital Traction Company Union Station in Georgetown. Some of these landmarks have been converted for use by buses or to non-transit uses, such as condominiums. On the other hand, the WRECO Garage on Georgia Avenue NW was constructed for buses, specifically, and Downtown's Greyhound Bus Terminal, an Art Deco masterpiece, illustrates the popularity of buses for traveling around the country from city-to-city.
Simultaneously, cars became more and more popular, as illustrated by landmarks like Mott Motors on H Street NE and Chapman Stables and Garages in Truxton Circle. Similar to how buses led to the repurposing of car barns, automobiles shaped the existing built environment, as stables, for example, were converted to new uses as garages. As the city grew, large-scale transportation infrastructure, such as parkways and bridges, became more critical to the functioning of the city. Often times, bridges were designed and constructed with a high-level of craftsmanship, highlighting their importance to the District and its residents.
Finally, some modes of transportation are truly unique to Washington, with the USS Sequoia being a prime example. The presidential yacht, a National Historic Landmark, was used by every president from FDR to Jimmy Carter.
This tour seeks to highlight DC's transportation-related historic landmarks.