Everybody has noticed that Washington, D.C. — our city, both center of the world, worldly and neighborly, a city embedded in its own history more firmly than most — is changing.
Really changing. Take a look at the new downtown, the new Southwest— Phase 1 of the Wharf opens this week—the area around the baseball stadium where our Nationals struggle to make it to the World Series, as we worry, and almost every neighborhood in the District of Columbia.
Georgetown, on the other hand, appears to remain spiritually, as well as physically, pretty much the same. This has less to do with intent — although there are a million reasons to fall in love with Georgetown’s continuity of façade, style and history — than with a certain amount of legality, because Georgetown is a designated historical district. This prevents massive physical change in terms of building and zoning. This is not to discount future condos at the West Heating Plant and at former gas station properties as well as a reborn hotel and retail at 30th and M.
Quite a bit of Georgetown remains the same, certainly since the day I wrote my first story for The Georgetowner in 1980 about Senator Ted Kennedy’s failing presidential campaign.
In this issue, we’re talking a lot about local businesses, new and old, part of a saga that has been going on since our own first foray as The Georgetowner in 1954 — its inaugural issue assembled on the second floor of Little Caledonia, a now departed home furnishings store, at 1419 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
I’ve seen lots of stories and places come and go: I arrived when Nathans and Clyde’s were established, successful restaurants and gathering places: Nathan’s is gone; Clyde’s, grown into a regional empire, remains.
When you’re part of The Georgetowner, for a long time—37 years—you become something of a walking carrier of memories of people and places and things or events. We have been fortunate to have been carried to our present presence in the community by three different leaders: founder Amy Stewart, a lady of the old school who went door to door for classified ads, and knew the village’s history by and with a heart. David Roffman, retired in Alabama, understood change in Georgetown to be a change in pace and energy. Sonya Bernhardt, our publisher brings an eye to social culture and style as well recognizing and achieving our publications place in the community, while tackling the digital challenges faced by news organizations in our times.
While we celebrate the atmosphere of new businesses, new places, we also like to remember what’s not here and is often thought about and remembered. We think of Doc Dalinsky’s Georgetown Pharmacy (now a 7-Eleven), an abundance of French restaurants, Cannon’s Fish Market, the Key and Biograph Theaters, the
Guards, Chadwick’s, Au Pied du Cochon, the Food Mart, Mr. Smith’s, Chris Murray’s very cool Govinda Gallery (now Down Dog Yoga), which was a photographic chronology of pop and rock music as much as it was an art gallery on 34th Street.
People and places come and go. What’s immutable about Georgetown is its reputation as a place historic, where history is made. Here is Georgetown University, the banks of the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. Our political leaders lived here, most notably, lest we forget, John F. Kennedy.
Georgetown has a generational glaze to it—in its stylish homes, its churches, its streets and museums and cemeteries.
At The Georgetowner, we chronicle change, to be sure—new shops, new styles, new people—but we also try to capture what’s changeless about Georgetown, what makes it unique. In doing so, we honor not only what is here, solid and lasting, but the history spread before us like a blanket full of gifts, a comforter that makes Georgetown Georgetown.