About Southwest Waterfront
While it may be easy to forget, one of the underlying reasons the founding fathers chose Washington as the site of the new Federal city was due to its waterways accessibility. Although it is not often thought of in these terms, Washington is a port city. And, every port city has a waterfront. Here, it is located in southwest Washington, in the shadows of the Capitol Dome.
When L’Enfant developed his plans for America’s new capital city, he envisioned the Waterfront as a fantastic entryway into the heart of the city. Here, visitors would be met by bustling commerce, a large military reservation and residents that exemplified the character of new American power. Those living in Washington at the time heeded this vision. Speculators and wealthy citizens bought large tracts of land in an effort to develop the waterfront. History has repeated itself.
While within walking distance of many desirable places in the city – Nats Stadium, the National Mall, Chinatown – it very distinctly remains its own little island. To the north, the Southwest Freeway isolates the neighborhood from the rest of DC. South Capitol Street, on its eastern border, segregates Southwest Waterfront from Navy Yard and Nationals Park. To the south lies Fort McNair and Buzzard Point, while the Washington Channel acts as a natural border to the west.
Today, much of the neighborhood’s housing stock reflects the effects of urban renewal in the 1950’s. Townhouse condos and luxury residences line G Street SW, but the majority of housing comprises of mid-century modern elevated condos and co-ops from the ‘60’s: boxy and concrete. Yet, juxtaposed with these space age apartments are some of the oldest residences in DC – row houses dating back to the 1700s that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
One major draw of the area that has persisted and remained unchanged for over two centuries is the Maine Avenue Fish Market This market, also known as ‘The Wharf’ or ‘The Fish Wharf’ has been a vital part of the District’s character since it opened in 1805. It is one of the few surviving fish markets on the East Coast and the oldest in the country, surpassing Fulton Market in New York by seventeen years. Ten stores occupy the establishment, each offering a specialty, which are opened daily. Floating barges line the pier along Water Street as a tribute to the original pattern of yore, when the vessels journeyed the sixty miles to Colonial Beach, Virginia from where they harvested the bay.
The development of the Waterfront area has been essential in creating a new version of its old success. While most of the old neighborhood has been razed, cherished landmarks were kept. Added to these have been some of the most modern buildings of the city. As the Waterfront continues down its path, it is becoming a very exciting neighborhood in which to become a part, and, it is attracting folks from far and wide.