O and P Streets west of Wisconsin Avenue
The streetcar tracks on O and P Streets recall when Georgetown was the nexus of an extensive 200 mile streetcar system beloved by Washingtonians. For nearly a century, residents of the District traveled the city by the conduit streetcar system – unusual in its use of an underground current arrangement that allowed for operation without unsightly overhead wires. Seen as part of the Beaux Arts “City Beautiful” movement, this system was found in only a few other cities, and aside from a small stretch in London, the streetcar tracks in Georgetown represent the last visible conduit tracks in the world. The remaining track is nationally and internationally significant as representing a technologically innovative mode of public transportation that preserved open streetscapes from visual and aural intrusion.
The protection of the tracks has been visited previously. In 1976, historians with the Historic American Buildings Survey supported the preservation of the Georgetown tracks while portions in other areas of the city were being removed by stating, “It is our concerted opinion that the trackage in Georgetown be preserved and identified, if at all possible, as a unique artifact of rail transportation history”. Since then, the tracks remain as the last intact memory of the important part of everyday life in Washington, D.C.
Failure to maintain the roadway led to the perception that the tracks were a safety concern, making them a target for potential removal and repaving of the street. They have since been reset, ensuring the streets are safe to drive on and keeping history intact.