Great Historical Photos of West Heating Plant

West Heating Plant


GM was recently browsing the website the GSA created in anticipation of the auction of the monumental West Heating Plant in Georgetown when he came across some fascinating historical photos on the site.

They even have what would now be described as “construction cam” photos. GM gif’d them:



It’s too bad that small building just north of the West Heating Plant was torn down at some point.

There’s more great stuff. Like here’s a photo of the empty lot before construction began:

empty lot


As you can see, the construction was apparently handled by the Charles H. Tompkins Co. This company, started by a GW grad, was behind such large scale projects of the time like the Scottish Rite Temple and Garfinkle’s department store. It also built both the West and the East wings of the White House. It was eventually acquired by the construction giant Turner.

Here’s a shot looking up from Rock Creek to the edge of the West End.

lokking up


The brick building is still there, nestled between curving highway on ramps. Those pretty frame houses, however, are long gone, having been plowed under so that suburbanites can drive to work faster.

Finally, there are a couple nice shots of the old coal shed:

Coal Shed


This was still around until about 8 years ago (along with the tracks from the B&O freight rail line, which was ultimately transformed into the Capital Crescent Trail). The architecture of the shed was clearly meant to echo that of the heating plant. But does anyone remember if it still looked that way before it was torn down? GM seems to remember it looking different.

And for the record, GM thinks the West Heating Plant is a beautiful building. It will look even better if cleaned up by a responsible owner.


Filed under History

3 responses to “Great Historical Photos of West Heating Plant

  1. Nemo

    The photo of the old pump house (I think that’s what it is) and the houses demolished for the Whitehurst Freeway’s K Street access ramps is very interesting. One assumes that K Street crossed Rock Creek into Georgetown on a modest, grade-level bridge. The freeway project obviously involved an enormous amoung of engineering. I am increasingly aware of all the man-made alterations to the natural “lay of the land” in Washington during the 20th century. The current alignment of Rock Creek valley south of P Street has been seriously “nipped and tucked” since 1900. For instance, both P Street Beach and the shelf along which the parkway runs appear to have been heavily re-graded from their original contition. From some early photos of the area, it’s almost unrecognizable to an observant modern observer (sic).

  2. Walter

    I believe the small building to the north of the heating plant was a temporary construction office.

  3. Eli

    Pretty nice quality photos considering the time. They were cleaned up a bit, I take it?

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