Georgetown Waterfront Park, Years in the Making, Opens

Chelsea and Clinton Fisher, visiting from San Diego, within the fountain of Georgetown Waterfront Park.
Photo by Robert Devaney
Chelsea and Clinton Fisher, visiting from San Diego, within the fountain of Georgetown Waterfront Park.

The completed transformation of Georgetown's land along the Potomac River was celebrated with an official National Park Service ceremony Sept. 13 at Wisconsin Avenue and K Street. Friends and volunteers came together to salute the completion of Georgetown Waterfront Park and to honor former Sen. Charles Percy (R-Ill.), the park's most influential advocate and longtime 34th Street resident, who is gravely ill.

The $24-million, 9.5-acre park was a project of the National Park Service, the Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park and the District of Columbia government. The park was designed by Wallace Roberts & Todd of Philadelphia and completes 225 miles of parkland along the Potomac River’s shoreline, stretching from Mount Vernon, Va., north to Cumberland, Md. It is the largest park to be created in D.C. since Constitution Gardens was completed on the National Mall in 1976. Construction began in 2006.

Once the land of old Georgetown's wharves and factories, the riverside had deteriorated into parking lots and empty land. In 1985, the District of Columbia transferred the waterfront land to the National Park Service. In the late 1990s, the Georgetown Waterfront Commission made the final, long push for completion, bringing together volunteers, residents, the rowing community, local leaders and the National Park Service as it highlighted the Potomac’s signature sport: rowing.

The park features pathways, granite artwork that tells the story of Georgetown as a port, a labyrinth, a bio-engineered river edge along with the newest and most popular attractions: a pergola, fountain and river stairs.

At the ceremony, Rock Creek Park Superintendent Tara Morrison greeted the crowd as it faced the Potomac, Roosevelt Island and the Kennedy Center and boats, helicopters and airplanes passed by.

"This is a grand day," announced Robert vom Eigen, president of the Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park, who thanked all those working for years to change unused industrial lots into parkland, now part of the Park Service.

"No one would have loved more to be here front row and center," said WETA president and CEO Sharon Percy Rockefeller of her father, Sen. Percy, whose picture is on a park plaque. Revealing that he is ill at Sibley Hospital, Rockefeller choked up as she said, "He would be thrilled to see this magnificent setting. It is his fondest and last best work."

On behalf of the District, Ward 2 councilman Jack Evans thanked the three most responsible for the final push to get the park done: Ann Satterthwaite, Robert vom Eigen and Grace Bateman.

Paraphrasing Frederick Douglass's thoughts on visitors to the nation's capital, Robert Stanton of the Park Service said, "When they visit Washington, D.C., they would be at home. For those who visit Georgetown Waterfront Park, they will be home as well."

Afterwards, hometown architects Hugh Jacobsen and Arthur Cotton Moore, sitting together at the House of Sweden reception for the park after the ceremony, approved of the new work. Pleased to see parkland and businesses side by side, Moore joked, "Hugh and I are going down those steps [at the river] tomorrow in our swimming suits."

Sculptor John Dreyfuss, also trained as an architect, summed up Georgetown's newest creation: "It is a triumph."

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Sat, 2 Aug 2014 00:32:00 -0400

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