Earlier this month, the George Washington University Archives released a mother lode of digitized photographs showing the construction of Metro. This amazing cache of hundreds of pictures showcases several segments of the system while actively under construction, as well as renderings of various stations.
The photos were taken by WMATA photographer Larry Levine to catalogue the construction. Today, they give us a peek into the origins of our notorious and beloved Metro system. GWU Library Archives are open to the public, so we wanted to share some highlights from the collection, along with some useful context.
The above image shows permanent and structural bracing near the portal just north of Grosvenor station. It’s facing north, located between the station and Strathmore Avenue along Rockville Pike. Nowadays, this area is home to a major transit-oriented development site and the Strathmore concert hall.
This shows Union station—possibly an entrance for tunnel boring activities. The Red Line between Rhode Island Avenue and Farragut North was the first segment of Metro to open in 1976. Today, Union Station is the busiest stop in the entire Metro system.
This is a rendering of the Wheaton station escalators, which at the time were the longest single-span escalators in the world. They are still the longest in the Western Hemisphere. Wheaton Station opened in 1990.
This craggy portal would become the entrance to the Rosslyn station mezzanine. This type of bedrock was one of the reasons that a Georgetown station was not included in the original system. Today, the Rosslyn station is the second busiest outside the District of Columbia.
This shows the construction of Judiciary Square, featuring form work for the coffered barrel vault. Judiciary Square was also among the original stations when the system opened in 1976.
Here’s a colored vignette of Metro Center station as conceived by architect David Childs, who was at the time a member of the US Commission of Fine Arts. The design fulfilled Chicago architect Harry Weese’s master plan for the Metro system’s original 91 stations, in which he sought to fuse the Greco-Roman neoclassical identity of Washington, DC’s cultural and civic buildings with the timelessness and efficiency of modern brutalism.
This is an aerial view of the Pentagon during construction. Note the cut-and-cover tunnel construction along the parking lots and the station cut to the right of the Pentagon. With its concentration of jobs and massive bus depot, Pentagon station is the busiest outside the District of Columbia, and the eighth-busiest in the entire system.
This shows the Foggy Bottom portal of the Potomac Tunnel construction. It’s the only tunnel beneath the Potomac, and it carries tens of thousands of passengers on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines today.
This construction rendering shows the placement of a tunnel segment used under the Washington Channel for the Yellow Line. The tunnel opened for service in July of 1977.
This shows construction of the G Street tunnel near Gallery Place prior to the placement of tracks.
This graphic shows the architectural configurations for every station in the original system.
We hope you enjoy perusing this archive as much as we have. Do you have a favorite image that we missed?
Correction: This article previously misidentified a tunnel section.