Historic Structures

Capital Traction Company Powerhouse, Washington DC

Date added: November 12, 2010 Categories: Power Plant

The building housed the equipment which generated the electricity for Washington's transportation system from about 1911 to 1943.

The following information is from the Georgetown Spectator, July 27, 1967: "The Capital Traction Co. built the power plant in 1910-11 to provide power for its streetcars, previously drawn by horses. It was built to be grand and stately by the owners of the firm, Georgetown residents, who were well aware of its importance in the heart of the Georgetown waterfront.

"At the height of its operation, the plant had twelve boilers which operated five turbo-generators producing 18,500 kilowatts of electrical power which was in turn carried to four sub stations located through the city. Each substation was fed by a high tension cable carrying 6,600 volts. At the sub-station, this power was converted to 600-volt direct current and fed to conductor bars in the tracks to run the cars."

Overall dimensions: An L shaped structure; 155' 7" north side, 225' 0" east side, 119' 0" south end, which is at about 60 degree angle with the east wall. The south hall (or ell) which extends to the river is 99'0" long on its west side, and is set in 45'0" from the west. The north elevation has sixteen bays, the west eight bays, the south three. The northern hall is 68' 10" deep. A basement story with small windows is below the south hall.

Floor plans: The northern hall is a large rectangular gymnasium-like space with three tiered galleries at the northern side. The southern hall has a "basilican" floor plan. Below this hall is a basement of rectangular shape divided by the continuing columns. The basement of the northern hall is divided by partitions and columns.