Early and Industrial Georgetown

The port of Georgetown was founded in 1751. Established 40 years prior to the decision to make Washington, DC the nation's capital, Georgetown is the city's oldest neighborhood. Throughout much of its history, Georgetown was a mixed-use commercial and industrial center, surrounded by housing for residents of all income levels.

In the mid-18th century, Georgetown was little more than a trading post where tobacco farmers sold their crops. The Revolutionary War changed the town into a depot for the collection and shipment of military supplies. The war sparked the beginning of Georgetown's industrial heritage, when the town helped manufacture arms. By 1789, Georgetown's waterfront was spotted with textile mills, paper factories, and flour mills.

Congress granted a charter to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company to build a canal from the tidewater of Washington, DC to Cumberland, Maryland in 1835. After a series of floods made the canal unusable, Georgetown's economy pivoted towards industry. Wide-scale industrialization changed the appearance of Georgetown permanently. The waterfront was specked with large saw mills, iron furnaces, foundries, and flour mills. Remnants of the Pioneer Cotton Company factory and rendering plant endure today.

By the late 20th century, the neighborhood shifted from a primarily industrial economy to a commercial one. Yet reminders of its rich early and industrial past remain. Follow this tour to learn about some of them.

Godey Lime Kilns (Washington Lime Kilns)

The Godey Lime Kilns were an important part of the thriving mid-19th Century commercial life of Georgetown. The manufacture and sale of lime at this site was conducted from 1864 to 1907. In the Washington area the lime industry can be traced back as…

Duvall Foundry

During the early and mid-Victorian period, Georgetown grew extensively, leaving an indelible mark on the built environment of the former port town. According to the 1993 survey, 175 buildings within the historic district date to this period. Much of…

Bomford Mill (Flour Mill)

George Bomford was an army ordnance expert and the owner of the mansion Kalorama. In 1845, he constructed a cotton factory on the site of a 1832 flour mill which burned down the previous year. The factory was sold to Thomas Wilson in 1850, who…

Georgetown Market

The history of the market site goes back to the Revolutionary War period when a butcher's market occupied part of the present property. This market was later replaced by the Georgetown debtor's jail. In 1795 the jail was removed to complete…

Key Bridge

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, spanning the Potomac River between Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Virginia, is a skillfully designed reinforced concrete arch bridge. Originally constructed to provide automotive, trolley, and pedestrian transit, the…

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

The C&O Canal Company was chartered in 1825 (the same year as the opening of the Erie Canal). The groundbreaking was celebrated by President John Quincy Adams at Little Falls in 1828. The canal was completed to Seneca by 1830, to Rock Creek by…

Georgetown Custom House and Post Office

The Georgetown Custom House and Post Office, designed by Ammi B. Young, Supervising Architect of the Treasury from 1852-1862, is one of several standardized types of custom houses developed under his supervision. This style provides for a simplicity…