GW returns antique call box after resident complaints

Foggy Bottom residents said they are upset because GW took away one more piece of the neighborhood without telling them last week.

Facilities Management employees removed a inoperable antique call box at New Hampshire and H streets and replaced it with a “blue light” emergency phone, less than 10 feet away from the old one March 6. After residents sent a letter and voiced complaints, the University returned the box to its original position Tuesday, University Police Director Dolores Stafford said.

But the blue-light box disappeared Wednesday.

“The University would not like us to come and play with their
property,” said Thomas Bower, who has lived in Foggy Bottom periodically since 1972. “We would not like them to come play with ours.”

Stafford said the University received a permit to install the new blue-light call box about a block away from the Hall on Virginia Avenue. GW had planned to install the box since it bought the building, Stafford said.

But residents said they were not given a copy of the permit when they asked for it.

“Obviously they didn’t have the permits to do it, so they decided to put it back to where it was,” ANC Commissioner Eleanor Becker said.

Facilities Management officials could not be reached for comment. UPD was unavailable Wednesday night to comment about the box’s disappearance.

The 100-year-old call box is one of many scattered around D.C. People used red ones to call the fire department and blue ones to call the police department, said Elizabeth Elliott, coordinator for a Foggy Bottom ANC project to restore and preserve the historic call boxes.

“We thought it would be prudent to put (a call box) between HOVA and campus,” Stafford said. “Our goal is to put one in each city block (on campus). We want phones handy in case people are in trouble.”

There are 20 call boxes on campus.

Bower said neighborhood residents are not necessarily opposed to new, functional emergency call boxes, but they would like to be contacted first.

“I don’t think people are concerned about the specific placement, other than the fact that the city wasn’t contacted or that the other organizations who would have helped weren’t contacted,” he said.

Stafford said the University did not plan to remove the antique call box when it applied for the permit and Facilities Management employees made a mistake when they took it down.

The oldest call box in the city, located at the corner of 19th and F streets, has been standing since 1897, Elliott said.

ANC members want each box to tell a part of the city’s history, Elliott said.

Elliott said GW had no right to remove the box.

“GW can’t come and decide they don’t like the look of it and tear it
down,” Elliott said.

Becker said the incident is an example of a continuing problem with GW.

“Again, GWU just decided what it wanted to do without caring what residents thought,” Becker wrote to Stafford.

Elliott and other residents said they are glad GW returned the box.

-Jason Steinhardt contributed to this report.

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