When coal floated down the C&O Canal, Canal Street was a seedy part of Georgetown, an almost-impossible to imagine circumstance today. Now, it’s a surprise: a secluded, quiet block tucked between 31st and Thomas Jefferson Streets NW, without even an image on Google Maps to guide visitors.
UrbanTurf recently visited the hodgepodge of businesses and residences along the pedestrian towpath fronting the C&O Canal, where the properties have a seemingly incongruous Canal Street address (map), and wondered about the history behind the tranquil rowhouses.
“Especially when the canal was in operation, this was a pretty grimy, rough part of town because it was right next to a major transportation source for industry,” said Ahna Wilson, the cultural resource program manager for the canal. “It didn’t get developed as much.”
Today, the rowhouses remain, most of them with commercial tenants. The block, framed by the Canal Inn to the west and corporate offices to the east, includes a take-out sushi restaurant, an exclusive salon and a few other commercial spaces, one of which is for rent. On a recent visit, two passersby openly remarked: “Who opens a shop down here? How do they stay in business?”
The canal in years past. Courtesy of the National Park Service.
A group of Georgetown residents and businesses are seeking to revitalize the canal and make it more of a focal point of the neighborhood as part of the Georgetown 2028 initiative, perhaps most famous for its vision of a gondola connection between Georgetown and Rosslyn.
If the initiative is successful in bringing more foot and water traffic to the waterway, UrbanTurf doubts the businesses here would be so quiet — or that commercial vacancies along the canal would last long.
That could disturb the block’s few residents, one of whom is a newcomer: A two-bedroom, one-bath house at 3069 Canal Street NW sold in January for about $760,000.
The 2028 plan also includes the idea of bringing back a boat to transport tourists along the canal. The old boat, The Georgetown, is currently in the towpath’s residents’ front yard, and was supposed to be destroyed by the National Park Service a couple of years ago. At least one of the neighbors loves the old boat, though, despite its state of disrepair.
“Removing the boat, for me, is like removing the Eiffel tower from Paris,” said Arlette Cahen-Coppock, the owner of The Fourth Lock salon, back in 2012.
This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/fronting_the_canal_a_block_of_georgetown_rowhouses_hide_in_plain_sight/8230.
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