Sixty years ago the slice of Georgetown between M Street and the Potomac was a warehouse and factory district. Georgetown was founded as a port, and an industrial boom started in the 1830s after the C&O Canal was built, since the canal had plenty of excess water that could be used to power mills. That's the canal today, above and below.
Then after WW II the factories closed and the district was gradually taken over for yuppie condos, offices (mainly lawyers and design firms), and retail.
Historic preservation in this district was sort of half-assed, which gave us interesting juxtapositions of things that were preserved and things that weren't, a look that I like.
I worked on two parts of this transformation myself. In the mid 90s I helped with the conversion of the old Georgetown incinerator (above) into a swanky industrial-chic Ritz-Carlton Hotel (below), with a bar inside the old incineration chamber.
Oddly enough, the old topsoil was preserved in a little patch right next to the incinerator, and since this is a bluff overlooking the Potomac that soil was full of prehistoric artifacts.
Then a few years ago I helped the Park Service turn what had for decades been a big gravel parking lot along the river into Georgetown Waterfront Park. Every time I mentioned to one of my friends that I was working in that parking lot I was told an old story about stumbling drunkenly from a bar on M Street to a car in that lot, with accompanying adventures. That gravel parking lot saw a lot of wild scenes. The park is nice, but it was nearly empty last Friday at lunch time when I was there, and the Georgetown shopping district also looked pretty dismal this year, with lots of empty storefronts. I wonder if maybe removing all that cheap parking has hurt the local businesses.
Well, time passes, and nothing stays the same for long. I like it that this district, though completely changed in terms of who lives there and the work they do, has retained enough of its character that it doesn't look like downtown DC or anywhere else nearby.