Cool Facts about the Southwest Waterfront

Posted by Mark Washburn on Wednesday, November 6th, 2019 at 6:46pm.

southwest waterfront - washington dc

You’ve likely heard about DC’s Southwest Waterfront, but there are plenty of cool facts you may not know. While the area’s now home to restaurants, nightclubs and marinas, it was actually fairly underutilized and isolated from much of the rest of DC until just a couple of years ago.

That’s when the Wharf began transforming the waterfront area into what we see today. Plans are in progress to redevelop the Southwest Waterfront into a mixed-use development with millions of square feet or retail, hotel, office, cultural and residential space.

Plans also call for open space and parkland. While phase one of the Wharf officially opened in 2017, development could continue for several more years.

Set right alongside the Washington Channel, the Southwest Waterfront began as part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original city plan. By the early 1950s, however, the neighborhood was in decline.

While there was some effort to change things around, progress really kicked off in more recent time. You’ll now find places to shop, grab a place to eat, plus take in some live music and festivals.

For boaters, you’ll find the option of more than 300 boat slips at Gangplank Marina. You’ll also find waterfront dining and the departure point for cruises. Public slips can also be found at Washington Marina.

Of course, some of the coolest things about the Waterfront aren’t modern at all. For example, It’s also the location of the nation’s oldest continuously operating fish market. The Maine Avenue Fish Market dates back to the early 1800s.

In a grim nod to our nation’s history, you can visit the reconstructed courtroom where co-conspirators of John Wilkes Booth were tried. Some of those co-conspirators were actually hanged there, but that exact location is now filled with tennis courts.

Another cool fact has to do with science. Dr Walter Reed once studied mosquitoes right along the waterfront. That helped lead to a vaccine for yellow fever.

The Southwest Waterfront is also home to the Thomas Law House. It was formerly owned by a direct descendant of Martha Washington. In addition, you’ll find Wheat Row, DC’s oldest block of row houses.

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