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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Industrial Georgetown Interpretive Sign, Georgetown, District of Columbia

The interpretive sign titled "An Industrial Georgetown" is a relatively rare example of interpretation of industrial areas placed in a publicly accessible location. The plaque is located within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. Established in 1751, Georgetown flourished as a tobacco port until the mid-19th century. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was begun in Georgetown as an alternative to the Potomac River with its natural obstructions. Eventually the 184.5 mile canal reached as far as Western Maryland. Today canal boats pulled by mules take people through the old warehouse district of Georgetown. The National Parks Service officers walking tours throughout the summer months on the weekends.

Text from the sign follows:
An Industrial Georgetown

If you could have walked along the towpath here in the 19th and early 20th century, your senses would have been overwhelmed by industrial pollution. The dust from coal being unloaded from canal boats fogged the air. The stench of animal fat being mixed with lye at Hoffmyer's Tannery and Soap Factory would have overpowered you. The groan of water wheels powering flour, grist, and paper mills would have been thunderous. A noisy, dusty, and sometimes dangerous place, the canal brought new goods such as coal, grain, wood, and stone to fuel Georgetown's bustling manufacturing district.

Today the evidence of Georgetown's industrial past is found in the architecture of buildings along the canal. Evidence of water outlets, bricked up chutes, smokestacks, and block and tackle still remain on many buildings. Reborn as offices, homes, and shops, the warehouses and mills of yesterday testify to Georgetown's humble beginnings and early struggle for prosperity.

Caption: View from the Aqueduct Bridge looking east in 1906. The Washington Monument is barely visible above the roofline on the far right.
Georgetown is also fortunate to have a business improvement district founded in 1999 by property owners and merchants. A description of their work from the Georgetown BID website follows:
From marketing and special events, to transportation and streetscape, the Georgetown BID contributes to the vitality and quality of life in Georgetown. Governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership of approximately 1,000 businesses, the Georgetown BID is proud of the role it has played in the ongoing evolution as an exceptional shopping, dining and visitor destination.

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