Southwest in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
River Farms to Urban Towers
—Southwest Heritage Trail —
Before bridges spanned the Potomac, ferry boats took people and goods across the river. You could ride to Alexandria from Greenleaf’s Point (now Fort McNair), or between the landings where today’s 14th Street Bridge touches ground. Sailboats came here from Norfolk, Virginia (and points south) and Baltimore, Maryland (and points north). Unfortunately for Washington’s hopes of international trade, Baltimore and Norfolk had deeper harbors and became thriving ports as the 1800s unfolded. Washington fell behind, focusing more on regional business.
Regular steamboat service began on the Potomac in 1815 between Washington and Aquia Creek, where the Potomac bends near Fredericksburg, Virginia. There passengers disembarked and rode overland to Richmond and the South. Because of political wrangling, travelers heading south from Washington were forced to ride steamboats until around 1860, when a rail connection was finally built linking Washington to Richmond. Still, overnight steamers remained popular until 1957, nearly a century after they were no longer necessary for southern travel.
Washingtonians have long enjoyed cruises from here to amusement parks on the Potomac. African American millionaire Lewis Jefferson, Sr. (1866-1946) ran the Independent Steam Boat and Barge Company at the turn of the 20th century. Jefferson’s
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 11 of 17.)
Location. 38° 52.624′ N, 77° 1.302′ W. Marker is in Southwest, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on Water Street, SW north of Sixth Street, SW. Touch for map. Marker is between 6th and 7th Streets, NW, near the entrance to Gangplank Marina, the homeport for many private yachts as well as the large excursion vessel Odyssey and the vintage former Presidential yacht, Sequoia, a National Historic Landmark. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20024, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Escape from Slavery (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Thomas Law (about 700 feet away); Denvel D. Adams (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Law House In Peace and War (approx. 0.2 miles away); Barney House (approx. ¼ mile away); Lewis House (approx. ¼ mile away); Blending Old and New (approx. 0.3 miles away); Wheat Row (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southwest.
More about this marker.
Between 1891 and 1957, passengers traveling overnight on the Norfolk and Washington Steamboat Co. followed this route. (Collection of John H. Shaum, Jr.)
Note: This was one of the last published advertisements of the Norfolk and Washington Co. - Washington, D.C.; Alexandria, Va.; Old Point Comfort, Va.; Norfolk, Va.
A detail from this 1883 map looking north along the Potomac River shows Long Bridge (where 14th Street Bridge is today) and more than a dozen working wharves. Ads from 1884 show the array of activity. (Library of Congress.)
The City of Washington, a double-ended side wheeler of the Alexandria & Washington Steamboat Company, ferried passengers and freight between the two cities between 1868 until the 1930s. (Washingtoniana Collection, D.C. Public Library.)
Wealthy civic leader Lewis Jefferson, Sr. operated steamboat cruises to his amusement park on the Potomac and lived in this gracious brick mansion at 1901 First Street. (Mora/Tren, Lewis Jefferson Collection.)
[Photo on reverse:]
Passengers sprint off the River Queen for the Marshall Hall Amusement Park [in southern Maryland], around 1920. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
Also see . . . Presidential Yacht Sequoia - a National Historical Landmark (Submitted on September 22, 2015, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Additional keywords. Black enterprise; "Jim Crow"; Notley Hall Park; steamboat excursion parks.
Categories. • African Americans • Entertainment • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on September 11, 2016. This page originally submitted on November 17, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,206 times since then and 59 times this year. Last updated on September 22, 2015, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on November 17, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. A photo of the marker and the surrounding area in context. • Can you help?