Nothing Ever Changes Here

Here’s the scene: the city installs new unattractive streetlights, the Georgetown Citizens Association objects, and the business groups complain that all these attempts to make Georgetown look like the 18th century is just going to drive business away.

Last week right? Nope. 1958.

GM stumbled upon an old Post article the other day when researching 3107 M St. It’s called “Lights Heat Up All Georgetown” and it’s from October 2, 1958.

The issue at hand was that the city was installing new modern mercury-vapor lights on M St. You can see one in yesterday’s photo here:

The Georgetown Citizens Association objected to the new lights. In response to their objections, Engineer Commissioner (this is back before home rule remember) A.C. Welling came to present a compromise to the association. As Post reporter Jerry Landauer wrote:

The controversy over Georgetown’s lights produced considered heat yesterday. The contending factions split roughly into three groups: Those who want all the tall angular mercury-vapor lights…taken down; those who want all of them to remain; and those who accept Welling’s compromise plan to tear down half of them…The Georgetown Citizens Association [accepted Welling’s compromise] by a vote of 97-0.

The Georgetown Citizens Association was more temperate in their response than the Progressive Citizens Association. This group was formed in 1926 to be a more activist group than the Georgetown Citizens Association was (which was itself founded in 1878). Also, unlike the Georgetown Citizens Association it allowed women to join. In fact it was founded by legendary preservationist Eva Hinton.

Hinton displayed her group’s more passionate objection to the lights in the article. Landauer wrote (in a typically chauvinistic way):

Mrs. Harold Hinton, vice president of the Progressive Citizens Association of Georgetown, said she had been battling the lights endlessly but suspected that most of her protests ended in the District Building trashbucket. She said she was not in a compromising mood.

Armistead Peter III, President of the Progressive Citizens Association (and final owner of Tudor Place), added the he was in Hinton’s corner and that “we’re going to get rid of them lock, stock and barrel…They’re too high, too angular and too unnecessary and not in the spirit of Georgetown.”

The businesses felt differently.

William G. Carter, president of the Golden Commissary Corp at 3033 M St. is quoted as saying “They put the lights up didn’t they? They must have made a survey before they put them up. What a mess! They’re trying to make it impossible for people to do business here.”

Paul Hochman, owner of Parties Unlimited at 3107 M St., expressed similar sentiments: “This is a business street and it’s no concern of the residents if we want modern lights. If they want to turn the street bak to what it looked like in 1775, nobody’s going to do business here.”

While the names change (for instance the Georgetown Citizens Association and the Progressive Citizens Association of Georgetown merged in 1963 to form CAG) and the specific topics change (everyone got behind the return of the old Washington globe lights), not a whole lot else does.

Too bad there weren’t comments sections to newspaper article in 1958. GM’s sure those would be the same as well…


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3 responses to “Nothing Ever Changes Here

  1. There really should be a statue of Eva Hinton erected in Georgetown, which would look vastly different today were it not for her early historic preservation activism.

  2. Nemo

    Here’s another vote for restoring the old Washington Globes throughout the city. The graceless new pseudo-antique lights being installed along Wisconsin Avenue at least from S Street to Calvert are only a minor improvement over the previous miscellany of late-20th century fixtures. And another point: get rid of the hideous sodium vapor yellow/orange bulbs — the quality of light is inexcusably ugly. The energy they save is of little value compared to the degradation they inflict on the nighttime streetscape! Take a look at the area around the Capitol,where someone (the Architect of the Capitol?) had the sense not only to reinstall Washington Globe fixtures of various appropriate sizes, but also fitted them with bulbs that give off a very pleasant medium-white light.

  3. Pingback: Happy Thanksgiving

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