Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Doing: The Pimped-Out Police Call Box

Good afternoon, guerillas!

It's been a slow season here at the OK Corral, aka the DCGG, but slow isn't necessarily bad. In fact, in gardening slow is often good! Trees grow slowly, right? And trees are good, right? So if trees grow slowly (let's call that A) and trees are good (let's call that B), then Logic tells us that slow is good! (A = B) Look'a me! Doing math!

Because of our slowy gardening goodness, Guerilla #2 (G2) and I were able to tackle an ambitious project on behalf of some super cool peeps from over the pond. Hayes Garden Furniture - a company I like because they're British (pip pip!), because they sell gardening furniture at discounted rates, and because they support our guerilla-y antics - contacted the D.C. Guerilla Gardeners and said, "Yo! D.C. Guerilla Gardeners! We totally support your efforts and want to help. P.S. Theresa, you're friggin' awesome; Great Britain loves you.*"

Hayes' monetary support of the DCGG brought about this totally amazing project that I have lovingly entitled "The Pimped-Out Police Call Box."
I present it to you here a la Dr. Who, because: 1) Dr. Who is the fan-freakin'-best; 2) the new and improved call box was painted Tardis blue (the Tardis being The Doctor's time and space-traveling police call box); and 3) our sponsor is British, just like Dr. Who and Paul Bettany, who's totally hot. See? There is a method to my madness after all.

But before I get into the project itself, a brief history lesson...

The District is littered with the skeletal remains of emergency call boxes. You've probably seen them around and wondered, "What the heck's up with these rusty thingamajigs?" What's up is that the rusty thingamajigs (pre rust) were installed in the 1860s to provide a direct link to police and fire services in case of emergencies.

Emergency call box, Washington, D.C., year 1912 (Source: Wikipedia)

The introduction of the 911 emergency call system in the 1970s made the elegant call boxes obsolete, and by 1995 the working electrical components were all removed. Non-functioning though they were, the heavy structures remained on their street corners, prey to the destructive forces of weather and vandalism.

Fast forward one hundred years to today, when one lucky box fell prey to the constructive forces of me, Guerilla #2, and Hayes Garden Furniture (UK).

Meet The Box. This lovely clunker resides on the corner of 10th Street at W Street NW, about two blocks from the U Street Corridor. Rusty, peeling and nasty, The Box was victim to graffiti, dog urine, and garbage stashing.

Rust, urine and garbage made it the perfect victim for us. It also made it gross.

First we cleaned the rubbish (I'm British!) out of it, rubbed it down with some steel wool, and then applied several coats of paint.

After the paint dried, we filled the base with a mixture of compost, enriched garden soil, and chicken wire. (The wire created an internal structure for roots to cling to.) Packed and ready to go, G2 and I planted stonecrop, rosemary, and hens and chicks.

Several hours later, our sad call box had a new lease on life. Gussied up and growing, no longer was the corner of 10th and W a broken-down reminder of the past. Now it was a bright blue statement that anywhere - everywhere - is a good place for a garden. Geronimo!

Sincere thanks to Hayes Garden Furniture (UK) for their generous sponsorship of this project.

*Okay, so this is a wee exaggeration... Hayes didn't actually say that Great Britain loves me, but I'm sure this is only because Great Britain's never met me. If it had, it would totally love me. Totally.

2 comments:

  1. These call boxes were dual use. Having no radios or cars, police used them to report in as they walked their beat. When the station needed to talk to the officer they'd make a light blink on top to let him know to call in. Phones weren't common in homes for a long time so these boxes were also available for the public to call in emergencies.

    There are other, fancier, boxes that date back to just after the Civil War. These were for the fire department. Instead of a phone there was a music box type mechanism. Each had a unique set of pins on the metal cylinder. When it turned, the pins would contact switches and send a unique code to the department. That'd tell them which neighborhood the fire was in.

    If you want to do your own police box I suggest making several strips of chicken wire and doing the box in layers. We tried with one big sheet and it got really tricky. Use the mulch to keep the soil from coming through the holes.

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