DC alleys and stables were the pulse of the city reflecting the ecology of urban change. Their stories reflect many lives and are living artifacts of 200 years of human experience in Washington. Reconstruction cannot possibly replace preservation. In 1990, all of the properties in Blagden Alley and Naylor Court were recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.
While horse drinking troughs were on almost every block years ago, few people would recognize them today. Sometimes owners add "equine artifacts" to their stable so that passersby can recognize the origin of the building. An example is on the wall of this stable in Georgetown near the Key Bridge. (The horse trough photo is from Shorpy's web site)
Although horses have long left the city of Washington, lingering reminders exist all around us. These little artifacts are seen by many but are probably recognized by few. For example, when you walk down 10th Street between P and O NW you will find a rein ring embedded in the east side curb about half way down the block. Perhaps this would have tethered a milk wagon horse or a street cleaning horse and wagon. If you continue down walking down 10th Street you will encounter an old mounting block embedded in the sidewalk on the west side between M Street and L Street. This reminder of our equine past was saved from destruction by local resident Jim Loucks who manages an architectural firm, has a design education and is an historic architectural preservationist. The development of a “people’s” (10th Street) park on the east side of this block beside Café Cozy Corner is another example of Jim’s proactive thinking and community activism. Sometimes when walking in alleys you will even see horse-head-height rein rings secured between bricks in the walls of old stables. Too bad all of the old iron drinking troughs in the city have been destroyed, for they would have made great city boulevard planters or even homeland security barriers! Who could have predicted “back then” what life would be like in D.C. today. One suspects that the iron horse drinking troughs were scrapped decades ago to help support the efforts of another American war.