Call Box Restoration

What are the DC Call Boxes?

At the end of the 1800’s cast-iron fire and police call boxes were installed throughout DC.

“The fire boxes, which came first, relied on a telegraph system. If you saw a fire, you would run down to the box and turn the key inside. It would send a message through underground cables to the central alarm center. The transmission matched a location on a giant map, telling the fire department where to send help.

The police boxes were used a little differently. They had telephones connected directly to the police department. The boxes were used by officers on patrol to check in from different street corners at different times to update central command, call for backup, or receive updated orders for their patrol area. (Vox, Coleman Lowndes, Aug 24, 2017)”

The call boxes were decommissioned in the 1970s where many were left in place as they were costly to remove.


Starting in 2020, the District of Columbia Daughters of the American Revolution began working to restore several call boxes located on Capitol Hill. First, an assessment of the condition of the call boxes was conducted and DC Daughters documented whether the call boxes were in poor, fair or excellent condition. While some call boxes are a bit rusty with chipping paint, there are several that are missing pieces, and some where only the base is left.

Manor House adopted the call box located at 7th Street & Massachusetts Ave NE.

The restoration process started with scraping and sanding the old paint off. Next step came priming, then painting. We commissioned artist Charlotte Patterson to complete a base relief, which was installed in May 2022.

Scraping & Sanding



Adding detail

The Art

In recognition of healthcare workers’ service during the Covid Pandemic, and the location of the call box near where the Eastern Dispensary and Casualty Hospital stood, our art installation recognizes nurse Mabel Keaton Staupers and surgeon Dr. Mary Edwards Walker.

About the Artist

Inspired by her middle school art teacher, Charlotte Patterson continues her quest for creativity and learning in many media. Sculpture, however, is the one she is consistently drawn to and teaches near where she resides in Kechi, KS. Charlotte enjoys exploring history and historical artists through most of what she creates. This cold-cast nickel silver relief is a piece she is really proud of and is a second commission for the Art on Call project.

Charlotte's composition for this bas relief sculpture included the sun and rays from nurse Mabel Stauper's Spingarn Medal, stars from Dr. Mary Walker's Medal of Honor and the Rod of Asclepius; a symbol for healing and medicine.

Mabel Keaton Staupers, R.N. (February 27, 1890- November 29, 1989)

Mabel Keaton Staupers, RN was a nurse, activist, and recipient of the prestigious Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which recognizes African-Americans who have significantly contributed to uplifting the needs of the African-American community. She was born in Barbados in 1890 and immigrated to the United States in 1903, growing up in New York City. In 1917 Mabel attended Freedman’s Hospital School, now part of Howard University, where she earned her nursing degree. She returned to New York, establishing the Booker T. Washington Sanatorium in Harlem with Dr. Louis T. Wright and Dr. James Wilson, treating Tuberculosis patients. This led to her studying the healthcare needs of Harlem residents and the creation of the Harlem Committee of the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association, where she served as the organization’s first executive secretary for twelve years. Mabel served as the Executive Secretary for the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN).To combat the quotas in place for the number of African American nurses that could serve in the Army and Navy during WWII Mabel organized a letter writing campaign, leading to a direct meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt. The discriminatory policy was repealed in 1945 and Black nurses were allowed to freely enlist in the military. She returned to Washington, DC where she died at the age of 99 in 1989.

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker (November 26, 1832-February 21, 1919)

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was a feminist, suffragist, prisoner of war, surgeon, and the only woman (to date) to receive the Medal of Honor. Dr. Walker grew up in New York and graduated with a doctor of medicine degree from Syracuse Medical College in 1855. At the beginning of the Civil War, Dr. Walker tried to join the Union Army, but was denied commission as a medical officer. She served as an unpaid volunteer surgeon at the U.S. Patent Office Hospital in the District, and later as an unpaid field surgeon, eventually becoming the first female U.S. Army surgeon. In 1864 she was detained as a prisoner of war after crossing lines in an effort to treat civilians. Not only did her choice of profession challenge the social mores of the time, but her style of wearing pants with her skirts, and later only pants suits, was a constant battle that lead to multiple arrests. She was active in the suffrage movement, attempting to vote in 1871 and in the early 20th century testifying before Congress in support of women’s suffrage. She died in her home in 1919, and was buried in her black suit.

Eastern Dispensary and Casualty Hospital

Eastern Dispensary was founded in 1888 at B and 3rd Streets SE. It was a fully staffed hospital, created with public funds, to provide care solely for those unable to pay for treatment. On April 7, 1905, the hospital, then named Eastern Dispensary and Casualty Hospital, moved to 708 Massachusetts Avenue NE. Over the years, further structures were added to the grounds, and the hospital was renamed several times.