Georgetown was founded in 1751 as an independent port city in the Province of Maryland. It remained an independent municipality in the federal district until 1871, when a consolidated District of Columbia government was formed.  As the northernmost navigable point on the Potomac River, Georgetown was a busy commercial port lined with wharves and seagoing vessels.  It served as an important mid-Atlantic trading center for tobacco and slaves. In the 1820’s the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was constructed along the west bank of the Potomac River, just north of the port.  However, by the late 19th century sedimentation of both the Potomac River and the C&O Canal made them unnavigable for commercial vessels, and port activities came to an end.

In the 20th century the Georgetown waterfront became an industrial site, hosting a cement plant, a power station, a flour mill, a meat rendering plant, and other such uses. Industrial activities continued on the waterfront until the 1960’s when the District of Columbia condemned the privately-held waterfront land for use as part of the proposed Inner Loop Freeway.  The freeway was never built, and for many years the District used the waterfront land as a parking lot and for storing road salt and trash trucks.