National Geographic : 1987 Jun
did the same for the nation's first major railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio. And that was the day the fates decided that George town would eventually be absorbed by Washington, D. C., and Alexandria would become a quaint bedroom community of the capital, while Baltimore would become a major East Coast rail head and seaport. The B & O's success earned it a lot of money and a square on the Monopoly board. Washington's canal project had made the Potomac navigable long enough. It had helped bring the western lands into the United States, when they might have evolved into a gaggle of separate countries as unneighborly as the nations of Europe or Africa. By the time the company died, the nation had more than doubled in size and 11 new states had been added to the Union. Washington's interest in the project never flagged. On De cember 10, 1799, he was not able to attend the company meeting but voted his 73 shares by proxy. Four days later he died, after a full life. His last words:" 'Tis well." If he could return for an inspection tour, Washington would have ample reason to be proud of the country he fathered. But he would be justified were he to scold us for our indifference to his great dream: a waterway west that did indeed help unify the nation. [7 ever the industrialand S trade center envisioned by Washington and his peers, Washington, D. C. (right,with Georgetown in foreground), shows the low profile of a city built on government and tour ism. Railroadsand other canal routes ended the bid for a Poto mac gateway to the West. Georgetownremained a busy port through the Civil War. Oceangoingvessels and C & 0 canalboatscalled at the water front (below) in the mid-19th century, and-where Key Bridge stands today-an aqueduct car ried boats acrossthe river to connect with a canalto Alexan dria.By then the Patowmack canalbuilders' contributionsto nation buildingwere bound into the republic'sfoundations.