Construction, restoration — Water Street has a new look

Published 5:38 pm Thursday, February 14, 2019

Two hundred years ago, few houses lined the north side of what was likely a single lane dirt road. The south side of that road sloped down to the water; on the shoreline, warehouses and docks lined the Pamlico River. Tall ships brought goods from across the world for a continued journey inland; more sailing ships transported commodities, such as tar and turpentine, to far-off destinations.

A hundred years ago, the warehouses and docks still existed, but in different form, backed by sawmills that planed Beaufort County’s wealth of pine trees into lumber. Beaufort County lumber went by boat and rail, also bound for far-off places. Gradually, the lumber industry went away, as did the buildings once attesting to its presence.

SPECULATION: Two Moss Landing spec houses are under construction at the corner of South Academy and East Water streets.

This was Water Street in Washington, then. Today, those who lived during past centuries would not recognize it. The economic engines of past industries—shipping and lumber—have been replaced by another, more pleasing to the eye, economic engine: real estate.

The transformation started in the mid-2000s, when construction began on the Moss Landing townhomes at the eastern end of Water Street. On the waterfront, three story buildings went up, offering luxury condominiums and unparalleled views of the river, followed by individual townhomes lining South Academy Street and a new road, Moss Way.

“It’s changed a lot since I moved here,” said Meg Howdy, executive director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance and Water Street resident.

Since Howdy purchased her home in 2005, the neighborhood has bloomed, most noticeably with Jim Wiley’s vision for Moss Landing Harbor Homes: new homes, designed to complement the historic district surrounding them.

OLD AND NEW: A mix of new homes and renovated homes line the eastern end of Water Street.

The first Moss Landing Harbor Home was completed on the corner of East Water and South Harvey streets in 2015. Since, Water Street’s older homes — the ones that aren’t quite historic, though have plenty of charm — have been purchased and restored. Lots long bereft of buildings have been purchased, and new homes have been constructed.

In four short years, eight Moss Landing Harbor Homes have been built. Another eight are under construction now. Of 38 lots, only 12 properties are still available.

The reasons for moving to the booming waterfront neighborhood are many — the views, being in walking distance to downtown shops and restaurants and the desire to downsize, a nationwide trend that means less maintenance and more time to travel and enjoy life.

From warehouses and docks, to luxury living, Water Street’s evolution is making Washington history.

AHEAD OF THE PACK: This Victorian home on the corner of South Academy and East Water streets led the restoration effort of several existing homes on Water Street.

LATEST RENOVATION: Closest to the intersection of McNair and East Water streets, this bungalow is currently undergoing a massive renovation.