Then and Now: Pepco’s Harvard Street Substation

Here’s a great then and now comparison of the Pepco substation located at Harvard Street and Sherman Avenue. Substation No. 13 was built in 1907 and designed by architect Frederick B. Pyle. Currently, it is Pepco’s oldest operating substation and one of the oldest purpose-built substation buildings still standing. To keep up with demand, additions were also constructed in 1920, 1921, 1929, and 1944.

Below is an image of what it looked like in the late 1950s.

Harvard Substation late 1950s(Image courtesy of Pepco)

Substation No. 13 was the first purpose-built substation constructed outside of the boundaries of the original City of Washington. Compared to other substations built prior to 1929, the Harvard Substation is the most architecturally significant as it is unique in its inclusion of a hipped roof, dormer windows, and stone quoins. These details are likely the result of a two month battle between residents of Columbia Heights and the city which attempted to prevent the substation from being constructed. The resulting building was an attempt to make the building more compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

Below is what the building looks like today.


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3 Comments on “Then and Now: Pepco’s Harvard Street Substation”

  1. Curious George Says:

    It was an eyesore then and it’s an eyesore now. Why couldn’t this be placed underground or rebuilt into a larger building? The bigger question though is the building adjacent to the north of it which is rat-infested blight on the neighborhood. Pepco — we demand better!

  2. mbk Says:

    I have been in several work related meeting with Pepco regarding other substations in the city and we have asked why many of these can’t be moved underground. The biggest issues are access and ventilation. Some very very small substations could potentially be incorporated into mixed use buildings but most people would say they don’t want to live on top of a substation. Even with these limitations, Pepco probably could and should do a lot more to improve the facades, either through public art or green walls etc.

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