A Short History of Georgetown Waterfront Park
Georgetown’s once thriving commercial waterfront lined with wharfs and sea-going vessels and later industrial plants is now a treasured park in the National Park’s greenway along the Potomac River. Since the 1960s when the waterfront land was condemned for an interstate highway, which was not built, plans emerged to convert the waterfront to a park. It has been a long process to convert those plans into the reality of a park. In 1968, the National Capital Planning Commission identified the waterfront as future parkland; in 1978 the National Park Service established and began planning the one mile long Georgetown Waterfront Park from Rock Creek to the C&O Canal; and in 1985 the District of Columbia’s City Council approved the transfer of the land to the National Park Service and the next year the Park Service’s plan gained the support of local and federal agencies. The first organization promoting the park was the Committee for Washington’s Riverfront Parks.
After delays over the fate of the Whitehurst Freeway, interest in the park mounted in the late 1990s with the establishment of the Georgetown Waterfront Park Commission, a forum chaired by Senator Charles Percy, with active participation of the Citizen’s Association of Georgetown as well as community and regional leaders and the National Park Service. This partnership and a new organization, Friends of the Georgetown Waterfront Park founded in 2005 to support the development of the park, oversaw the redesign and approval of the Wallace, Roberts and Todd designed plan for the section of the park from the Key Bridge to 31st Street NW. In 2008, the first section of the park, operated and maintained by the National Park Service, was opened to the public after successful fund-raising by the Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park, generous support of the District of Columbia, and a National Park Service Centennial challenge grant. Construction of the final phase of the park began in the spring of 2009 after forty years and hundreds of public meetings, hearings, and tireless participation of dedicated citizens and public officials. This final phase, which featurs and interactive fountain, stairs for viewing the crew races, and a pergola-shaded plaza for social interaction will be completed and open to the public by the fall of 2010.
The Georgetown waterfront is a now a National Park for public enjoyment, the vital last link that will join the 225 miles of public parkland along the Potomac River from the terminus of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, in Cumberland, Md., to historic Mt. Vernon, Va.
Pepco plant at foot of Wisconsin
Pepco plant at foot of Wisconsin on the Waterfront
The photo below shows the waterfront as it was when it was an industrial commercial site.
- Historical view of the Georgetown Waterfront