There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. Whether you are preparing for a road trip or just out to look at your own town in a new way, a downloadable walking tour from walkthetown.com is ready to explore when you are.
Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.
Georgetown was formally established in 1751 when the Maryland Assembly authorized a town on the Potomac River on 60 acres of land belonging to George Beall and George Gordon; hence Georgetown. Tobacco was the lifeblood of the community and Georgetown soon prospered as a shipping center with a profitable European and West Indian trade. Commerce and industry developed along the waterfront, where wharves and flour mills were constructed. During the Revolution, Georgetown served as a great depot for the collection and shipment of military supplies.
The town was finally incorporated in 1789 but only two years it was included in the new Federal District with the establishment of the nation’s capital to the east in 1791. Georgetown retained its own character and rapidly gained a reputation as the fashionable quarter of the capital, drawing eminent visitors and residents from this country and others.
After the Civil War, large numbers of freed slaves migrated to Georgetown. The African American community flourished, becoming increasingly self-reliant. In the 1880s the waterfront prospered. But in the 1890s the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal was severely damaged by a Potomac River flood and the Canal Company was bankrupted. The area went into an economic decline and in the period after World War I, Georgetown gained a reputation as one of Washington’s worst slums; its homes were neglected and the area deteriorated badly. This trend began to reverse itself in the 1930s with the New Deal and reached a high point when Senator John F. Kennedy resided in the neighborhood in the 1950s.
Although there are some pre-Revolutionary buildings in the district, most of the housing stock dates from the period after 1800. In the Federal period, brick replaced stone in construction of both residential and commercial buildings. The mansions of wealthy shipowners, merchants and land speculators were built above the harbor on Prospect and N Streets. Hotels, taverns, banks and other commercial buildings were constructed along M Street and in the waterfront area. On the heights above the town, the squares remained intact and undivided. After the Civil War, the brick rowhouse made its appearance in Georgetown. There are 58 houses listed in the DC Inventory as individual Georgetown landmarks that are of Federal City/Pre-Civil War importance.
The Georgetown Historic District is roughly bounded by Reservoir Rd., NW, and Dumbarton Oaks Park on the north; Rock Creek Park on the east; the Potomac River on the south; and Glover-Archbold Parkway on the west. This walking tour will start on the campus of Georgetown University on the western fringe of the old town...
- Doug Gelbert, January 2010
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