Following the Civil War, the neighborhood of Southwest Waterfront developed as a home to European immigrants as well as freed black slaves. Although it had a vibrant commercial district and a few large houses, most of the neighborhood remained as a ghetto with tenements, shacks, and tents. In the 1950s, Congress, working with city planners, decided that the entirety of the Southwest quadrant needed to start again, from scratch. Despite opposition over concerns about affordable housing and displacement, the plans went through and only a few buildings were left intact. Today, the Wheat Row townhouses, the Thomas Law House, Maine Avenue Fish Market and the St. Dominic’s and Friendship churches remain.
The residential neighborhood of Southwest Waterfront, a segment of Pierre L’Enfant’s system for the city, is home to some of the oldest structures in the city. Southwest Waterfront, or simply “Southwest”, is the location of the Civil War fortification, Fort McNair, established in 1791, and Wheat Row, a block of townhouses built in 1793.
Urban renewal and redevelopment are a part of the neighborhood’s history and continue to be today. In a city filled with historic buildings, Southwest Waterfront is also home to rare examples of modern architecture in D.C.