Portion of a 1953 Washington, D.C. license plate; link to site home page.

1940s-1950s Motoring in the District of Columbia

Photographs from the Archives of the
District Department of Transportation (DDOT)

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S. Capitol St., c.1957

Rush hour on South Capitol St., from the M Street overpass looking towards the South Capitol Street Bridge (now the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge) over the Anacostia River, circa 1957. The bridge was constructed (and the roadway widened) in 1950 to connect the Suitland Parkway, on the east side of the river, with downtown D.C. and to create a more attractive, bucolic entrance to the city for international visitors that landed at Andrews Air Force Base, located just off the parkway in Prince George's County, Md. The bridge was extensively rehabilitated in 2007.

This area was until recently an industrial neighborhood with extensive in-road rail trackage and piers on the Anacostia. Today all of the buildings on the left side of the road are gone, replaced by the Washington Nationals baseball stadium that opened in late March 2008. With the exception of the light-colored warehouse in the distance, all structures on the right-hand side have also been replaced as the neighborhood undergoes redevelopment. Pictured closest to the camera (form the left) are a 1956 Ford heading toward downtown and a 1956 Pontiac heading out of town.

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H St., NW, December 1945

This snowy scene, photographed four days before Christmas in 1945, is H St., NW looking east towards 18th St.

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Automobile accident at 18th and F Sts., NW, c.1945

Not only did at least one (and possibly two) careless motorists block the intersection of 18th and F Streets, NW, to other motor vehicles as a result of their accident, they also interrupted the passage of the 80 streetcar. The vehicles are a 1942 Plymouth (left, with a U.S. government license plate) and a 1940 Chrysler. (c.1945)

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M St., SE, looking towards 11th St., c.1949

M Street, SE looking east towards 11th Street, SE, circa 1949. The wall on the right guards the Naval Gun Factory, renamed the Washington Navy Yard in the early 1960s. The Washington Gas Light Co. natural gas tank in the distance was razed in the 1990s and is now the site of high-rise office bulldings occupied by Navy contractors. Cars closest to the camera, from left to right, are a 1947 Studebaker, 1948 Studebaker, 1941 or '42 Buick, and 1942, '46, or '47 Chevrolet.

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Scott Circle

Scott Circle, NW as seen from Rhode Island Ave. is the locale, and the Jeep wood-bodied station wagon in the foreground was made by Willys sometime during or after 1946. The simulated wood body is stamped steel. Based upon the dark-on-light color scheme, numbering cofiguration, and dies of the license plate we can date this image to sometime between April 1958 and March 1964.

The statue in the circle is of Gen. Winfield Scott. Note that at this time Washington street signs, which were frosted glass with black lettering, were very small and mounted high off the ground, just below street lamps in order to be legible at night.

 



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This page last updated on January 1, 2017

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