In 1898, streets in downtown DC got cleaned by hand every day, while many streets in Logan Circle, Capitol Hill, and what’s now NoMA got cleaned 3 times a week.

Georgetown BID head Joe Sternlieb has this old map hanging in his office. It shows the street cleaning system for the “City of Washington,” which at the time was distinct from though by 1898, there wasn’t still a formal distinction between the city and the surrounding Washington County that had made up the rest of the District.

The city did “daily hand cleaning” of roads for a few blocks around the White House, while downtown roads got “daily hand cleaning under contract.” Other streets got “machine cleaning” 3, 2, or 1 time per week.

Today, many of the BIDs do have people doing some form of daily cleaning, such as picking up trash, while city cleaning is at most once a week. But probably the street sweeping trucks are more sophisticated today.

Oh, and there were public dumps ringing the city, along Rock Creek, in Columbia Heights, Near Northeast and along the Anacostia. Some of those sites seem to be on the grounds of schools today (such as Francis-Stevens and Meyer), while it looks like the one to the northeast of the city is where the NoMA Harris Teeter is today.

What do you notice?

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.