Follow this self-guided Cultural Tourism DC Neighborhood Heritage Trail to learn more about Washington's Southwest waterfront.
River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail consists of 17 poster-sized, illustrated signs that combine storytelling with historic images.
The first sign is located at the Waterfront/SEU Metro station plaza, Fourth and M Streets, SW. (PLEASE NOTE: Sign 11, located on Water Street, SW, between Sixth and Seventh Streets, is temporarily missing. Sign 6, located at Seventh and E Streets, SW, is also temporarily missing.)
The two-hour, self-guided tour proceeds up Southwest's historic “main street,” Fourth Street, and heads west toward the Washington Channel Waterfront. The trail continues along the waterfront toward Fort McNair, Washington's first military installation. The last trail signs guide you back toward Waterside Mall.
Walkers are encouraged to follow the trail at their own pace, sampling neighborhood character, businesses, and restaurants along the way.
For more information about this heritage trail, email us at Trail@CulturalTourismDC.org or call 202-661-7581.
Please note: When planning your visit please note that Sign 6 (Seventh and E Streets, SW) and Sign 11 (Water Street between Sixth and Seventh Streets, SW) are temporarily down.
From Sign 5 continue west on G Street, crossing Seventh Street to reach Sign 7.
From Sign 10 continue south/southwest on Water Street to Sign 12 at the turnaround.
Until the 1950s, Southwest was Washington's largest working-class waterfront neighborhood. Then, in one of the nation's first experiments in urban renewal, nearly all of Southwest was razed to create something entirely new.
This trail features locations that recall Southwest's first settlement, its gritty maturity, and its rebirth as a “new town in the city.”
You will follow in the footsteps of the colonial settlers, immigrants, domestic workers, fishmongers, government staffers, and congressmen – all passengers on the journey from river farms to urban towers.
Admire some of Washington's oldest houses on “Wheat Row” and Modernist architectural highlights, such as Waterside Towers, River Park, and the Arena Stage building.
See the waterfront where Washington's own regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops returned in triumph at the end of the Civil War. Enjoy a spectacular vista that memorializes Benjamin Banneker.
Would you prefer to take a guided tour of Southwest?
Trail booklets providing additional information are available at the following locations:
Cultural Tourism DC initiated the District of Columbia Neighborhood Heritage Trails program with two goals in mind: helping visitors find their way around Washington's historic neighborhoods and promoting community pride.
Each trail was conceived with the active involvement of neighborhood organizations and residents. Southwest Neighborhood Assembly was the local partner for Rivers Farms to Urban Towers.
River Farms and Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail is a project of Cultural Tourism DC in collaboration with the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly. Funding was provided by the Department of Housing and Community Development, District Department of Transportation, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and U.S. Department of Transportation. Additional cooperation provided by the National Park Service.
The Southwest Heritage Trail can also be found along the Potomac Heritage Trail route.
"I looked at the new brochures for the Deanwood and Civil Rights Heritage Trails. I am always astonished and amazed at the work you do and the quality of it. Beautiful."