One of DC's Oldest Neighborhoods:
In 1815, the Washington City Canal, linking the Anacostia River to the Potomac via downtown Washington, was completed. The canal attracted businesses where it met the Anacostia River. Among the first was the eight-story sugar refinery of merchant Thomas Law. Law's refinery later became a brewery. James Barry traded here as well. (His farm across the Anacostia eventually was sold for the fabled Barry's Farm settlement of formerly enslaved men and women.) A tobacco inspection warehouse operated nearby. And, in the early years before the canal became polluted and unreliable, well-to-do Washingtonians built large houses near its banks.
Soon the Navy Yard, with its steady employment, dominated the neighborhood. At first a center of ship building, the yard shifted to weapons production and became the Naval Gun Factory. By the 1840s the grand homes of the early merchants were giving way to modest worker housing.
While Washington, DC expanded and modernized, this area, known as the Navy Yard section, saw little change. Small businesses and row houses gave the look of an aging small town. In the 1940s the city began replacing old houses with affordable housing: the Carrollsburg (1941) and Arthur Copper (1956) Dwellings, and Carroll Apartments for seniors (1964). After the Southeast-Southwest Freeway isolated the area physically in the late 1960s, few outsiders ventured here. Light industries and garages operated alongside a small entertainment district. As elsewhere, the arrival of Metrorail in 1991 signaled a new era. With the new NAVSEA Headquarters, US Department of Transportation building, Nationals Park, and revitalization of the Carroll Apartments leading the way, the new neighborhood took hold.