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East Capitol Street Car Barn
NPS Photo

The East Capitol Street Car Barn, constructed in 1896, is a Romanesque Revival style building designed by Waddy B. Wood, a prominent Washington architect. The L-shaped building is intrinsically linked to the history of Washington's rapid transit system. The building, erected as a car barn, repair shop, and administrative offices for the Metropolitan Railroad Company, represents three important stages in rapid transit system history: 1) the electrification of Washington streetcars and the final replacement of horse drawn cars in the 1890s; 2) the consolidation of streetcar lines into a functional network in the early 20th century; and 3) the gradual replacement of the streetcar by the bus in the first half of the 20th century.

In 1889 and 1890, the United States Congress required streetcar companies in Washington to convert from animal traction to some form of mechanical traction. Overhead wire use was also outlawed. Just having been granted permission from Congress to extend the company's line on East Capitol Street to 15th Street, the East Capitol Street Car Barn was built when Metropolitan was converting all of its lines to the electric conduit system. In an attempt to organize the numerous streetcar companies in Washington, Metropolitan merged with Washington Traction and Electric Company in 1899. Soon after, Washington Traction and Electric Company declared bankruptcy. The Washington Railway and Electric Company acquired their property, eventually stabilizing the streetcar business into an efficient network of electric railways instead of competing lines. The car barn continued to function as a storage and repair shop for electric cars. When Washington Railway and Electric Company merged with Capital Traction Company to form Capital Transit Company in 1933, buses began replacing streetcars due to their flexibility. On January 28, 1962, the last streetcar was operated in Washington and the East Capitol Street Car Barn was then used to store buses.

In 1973, the DC Transit Company was acquired by METRO, Washington's new rapid transit authority. The East Capitol Street Car Barn was not acquired by METRO, and was vacant. A private developer purchased the property and has adaptively re-used the car barn by turning it into a unique apartment building.

The East Capitol Street Car Barn is located at 1400 East Capitol St., NE. It is privately owned and not open for public access. Metro stop: Eastern Market


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