The Alexandria waterfront reflects the perpetual relationship between people and the Potomac River. The Old Town shore documents a history rich in individual and collective maritime, commercial, and cultural concerns. Waterfront Walk designates historically significant sites along Alexandria's waterfront. By walking the marked route, these sites provide insights into the waterfront's changing character and its role in the City's history.
Standing buildings and wharves, archaeological sites, photographs, documents, and memories of elder citizens have brought the different activities and waterscapes into focus. The water in the historic period served as a magnet for the transfer and storage of goods, manufacture, retail business, recreation and residence. The wealthy merchant, the British or Russian sailor, the free Black barber's family, the Jewish immigrant shopkeeper, the carpenter, and the dressmaker's children all engaged in their various activities within three blocks of the water's edge. Before the historic period, in prehistoric times, Native Americans built their villages, traveled the river, and fished along the bluffs and marshes that once characterized the waterfront.
Throughout the centuries the river has remained an integral part of Alexandria's existence. Yet the Potomac's possibilities for subsistence, wealth, enjoyment, and community life have been interpreted in distinctive ways by maritime heritage. Waterfront Walk recreates these earlier times for our appreciation today.