The history of Georgetown is a tumultuous one. What began as a trade post on the Potomac for tobacco and Native American goods, eventually flourished into the wealthy college town that is known around the world today. Although never officially established as a city, Georgetown had its first mayor in 1790 and was consistently referred to as the City of Georgetown (or also George Town) in early acts of Congress. Frequented by George Washington and other important politicians of the time, Georgetown grew into an independent municipal government in the District upon establishment of Washington as the federal city.
If a person were to visit Georgetown today, they would see that the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (or, the C&O Canal) has been drained. This is to repair the lock and dam mechanisms from the 1820s that were built to continue Georgetown’s job as a port city even after the Potomac became silted and impossible to navigate. Eventually, the canal was sold to the National Parks Service in the 1920s and the shipping and milling industries stopped. “Old Georgetown” was established in 1950, and under public law, there would be no more construction, demolition, or alteration of Georgetown in its historic district without consultation of the US Commission of Fine Arts.
In the early 200os, Georgetown became home to numerous hotels, growing it into a tourist destination for travellers from all four corners of the world. Today, whether you’re walking down the cobbled streets, the brick alleyways, or the empty canal, it’s almost impossible not to imagine being transported to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Although the city of Georgetown has expanded and grown a lot in its hundred-year history, the majority of it hasn’t changed much.
To read more about the history of Georgetown, visit these links:
- A Portrait of Old Georgetown
- Georgetown Architecture; Northwest Washington: District of Columbia
- Georgetown’s Old Stone House: An Anchor to our Past and the Challenge of Interpreting it
- “Georgetown Celebrates 250 Years”
- Remembering Georgetown: A History of the Lost Port City
- “Georgetown (Washington D.C.)”