From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Happy 15th Anniversary!!

By Lani Gering

Wow! Can you all believe that it has been 15 years since National Harbor made its debut? Those years certainly flew by. I remember when Milt Peterson first unveiled his plan for the project and the hullabaloo that ensued afterward, most specially on the Alexandria side of the Potomac. Comments like “He is building a resort that is going to take away our tourist business.” “It is never going to work. Who would want to spend time in Prince George’s County? It is dangerous!” and so on….

Well….no tourist business was taken away from Old Town. In fact, the Gaylord has provided hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to our fair city. Old Town has something the Harbor doesn’t have – hundreds of years of history. I lived in a wonderful condo in the Harbor from 2010 to 2021 and never felt in danger once. In fact, I wish I still lived there but the Economic impact of the pandemic forced my move.

When Peterson took on this project he didn’t know that the economy would take a bit of a hit in the early 2000’s. When the downturn occurred he stayed true to his word (unlike many others in the building business) and put his money where his mouth is and kept the project going. After the completion of the Gaylord and the main footprint of the “Heart of the Harbor” – it officially opened on April 1, 2008. We were there at the ceremony and were happy to be part of a little bit of history being made.

“When Milt Peterson, first saw the piece of land, he saw something that no one else saw,” said Jon Peterson, CEO of Peterson Companies. “As a developer, we always look to provide what a community is needing and there was an opportunity in southern Prince George’s County for residential, retail, restaurants, and office space. Therefore, we created this mini-city right on the Potomac River. My father Milt always said, let’s provide something that’s fun for the family as a getaway – that was part of the vision. It was to provide something here for everyone and as you can tell after 15 years, there is something here for everyone.” The photo featured on this page of Jon and Milt was taken in May of 2013 by former Rolling Stone photographer Chester Simpson – . It captures the essence of both men and has been a favorite of the family for these past 10 years. Sadly, Milt passed away in May of 2021 at age 85. He was a force to be reckoned with.

Now as I look across the river from Old Town and the skyline now hosts the MGM Grand, the Capital Wheel and the Flag at Spirit Park in addition to the original “Star of the Harbor”, the Gaylord Hotel and Resort, I maintain that Milt had a really good idea. Even though, some retail businesses and eateries have come and gone, the Harbor still has a vibrant shopping and dining scene with new things popping up every month. Not to mention the festivals and events that happen yearly. In fact, Cherry Blossom celebrations are winding up early this month.

I was hoping to find out that there are anniversary celebrations running throughout the month but as of this writing, it appears that the only events commemorating the Anniversary happen on April 1st and that is the day this issue hits the streets.

There are so many amazing things to see in the Harbor from an artistic perspective but two of the most powerful are “The Beckoning” sculpture that greets you as you turn into the Harbor and “The Awakening” that lays in the sand along the waterfront at the foot of American Way. Speaking of American Way…there are many sculptures that line that promenade – my favorite is “Marilyn”.

If you haven’t been in the Harbor for a while or haven’t been at all, it is worth the trek across the bridge. Information about all of the artwork and its significance as well as a guide to eateries and shops is available at .

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