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The Story Behind the Street Post Animals

Have you ever been standing at a corner, casually looking up as you wait to cross the street when you notice an anteater crawling down the signpost? 

Well, if you’re standing at the corner of Seventh and A Streets SE, we can explain this wildlife sighting (if you weren’t, email leads@hillrag.com with the breaking news!).

It, and the 19 other animal sculptures affixed to signposts all over the Hill, are part of the Capitol Hill Alphabet Animal Art Project (CHAAP).

It all began when Hill resident Stephen Young started walking around with his two young daughters. Passing the lettered street signs, he would say, “E! E is for Elephant! K! K is for kangaroo!”

And that’s when he had the idea to share the experience by installing sculptures on signposts. He came to the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) with the idea.

CHAW received a pilot grant from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in 2014 to fund 10 whimsical animals on the streets of Southeast. In 2019, DDOT, Eastern Market Main Street (EMMS) and the DC Community of the Arts and Humanities funded an additional ten sculptures around the Hill.  

Not all are placed next to the first letter of their species. Some will teach letters, such as the Emu at Fifth and E Streets SE, but you’ll branch out into letter sounds when you notice the Narhals at Second Street and North Carolina (“There aren’t actually too many animals whose non-proper name starts with the letter “N,” so my options were narrowed down for me,” artist Undine Brod told the Post in 2021).

Learn more about CHAW and the project at chaw.org/projects.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the sculpture at Seventh and A Streets SE as an aardvark rather than an anteater. We have corrected this error. 

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