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When the District was illuminated by gas flame and before cell phones (BCP) city planners spliced street lights and call boxes together to create a corner by corner assistance system. Bright red glass surrounded the flame up top, making a “Police” or “Fire Call Box” logo glow in the darkness. A passersby could break open a key encased in glass and use that to trip a switch that would alert, well, the police and fire departments to an emergency. You’ve seen the empty shells that once housed call boxes (pictured here), still fanciful in their late nineteenth-century style, made obsolete by the two-way radio. You have access to this historical reminder because they are too heavy to remove. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one still sporting a small door with a keyhole to nowhere. Happily for those in DC, many call boxes were restored in 2009, made relevant again as frames for various works of art, via Art on Call.