Historic Hydrants in Washington, D.C.

Capitol & Court

Hydrant 1: United States Supreme Court Building

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! From the old-style three-cap hydrant near the corner of Maryland Avenue and First Street NE, look southeast at the stirring U.S. Supreme Court building. It was built in 1935 on the historic site where Captain Benjamin Burch's Boarding House rented rooms in 1800, and where Congress temporarily met after the British burned the Capitol in 1814.The nine justices charged with upholding the Constitution, you might note, have often had to rule on various bones of contention. Among the Court's most celebrated canine cases are Nicchia v. People of State of New York (1920), in which it upheld a New York dog-licensing statute on the ground that it did not"deprive dog owners of liberty without due process of law," and Sentell v. New Orleans & C. R. Co. (1897), in which the Court denied the owner of a "valuable Newfoundland bitch" his suit against the railroad company after a train ran over the untagged, unleashed Countess Lona. So let that be a lesson!

Walk This Way
Cross over First Street toward the United States Capitol directly in front of you to the west. Walk along the gorgeous, tree-shaded walkway along the Senate side and notice that most of the old trees, even some of the dogwoods and English elms, bear memorial tags. Continue to the shaded Victorian-looking bus stop where you and the pup can plop down for a minute on the old-fashioned benches.

Hydrant 2: The United States Capitol

From the large and upright framed guide map on the sidewalk near the Capitol's northeast corner, the closest thing resembling a fire hydrant you'll see is the majestic dome atop the Capitol itself. That's because the emergency water valves are all underground and out of sight. But the real sights aren't. Our dog couldn't quite make out the details of the crowning figure above the U.S. Capitol. It isn't Pocahontas, not even an American Indian as is widely believed. That's the 19.5-foot Statue of Freedom, a classical female figure in flowing draperies, one hand on the hilt of a sword in its sheath, the other holding the shield of the United States and a laurel wreath of victory. Her helmet is indeed composed of an eagle's head, talons, and feathers, resembling Native American dress.

Walk This Way
Continue following the walkway around the north side of the Capitol with Constitution Avenue on your right. As the walkway forks, bear to the right. Across Constitution Avenue is the Taft Memorial Carillon and Union Station Plaza.

Hydrant 3: The Capital Grotto

The functional hydrants are essentially subterranean here, too, but in that seemingly overgrown clump of woods on the Capitol's northwest grounds is a running spring and oasis of a fountain. Decades in Washington and we never knew this existed. You'll find a small brick structure, sometimes called the Summer House, where three public drinking fountains (municipal water, not spring fed) are grouped around a delightful ornamental fountain. Inside are stone benches, and to the east, outside the wrought-iron bars, a stream splashes over rocks.

Walk This Way
Follow the Capitol grounds walkway to the west edge of the grounds and cross First Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue. Go past the Peace Monument to your left and walk over to the Capitol Reflecting Pool in front of you. Beneath you runs the underpass of Interstate 395. Now stroll back to Pennsylvania Avenue, turn left (northwest), and continue across Third Street NW until you get halfway down the block.


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