It all started with hard work, a man, and the help of his strong devoted family. He came from modest beginnings on the eastern shore of Virginia where his father was a watermen. His decision to settle in DC at the Wharf in the nations capitol came to him after selling crabs and other various wholesale items around the metropolitan area. With an honest work ethic, a loyal customer base, and the confidence from local watermen he was able to not only create a thriving business here on the wharf but also create a way a life for future generations.
Captain White’s has continued to thrive under the leadership of his two sons Billy and Sunny. Furthermore, with the help of Billy’s sons Mark and Pete manning the daily operations, Mark’s son Douglas, nephews Paul, Kevin, Collin, Sam and niece Jasmine serving our loyal customers, many cousins, and several other members of the family behind the scenes, this has now become a fourth generation family owned and operated business. The ability to grow has not only come from the family, but also from all those who are a part of Captain White’s crew present and past who are considered part of the family. Their devotion is unwavering and their spirits play a vital role in keeping the dream alive.
History Of the Fish Wharf
The Municipal Fish Wharf in Washington, DC is one of the oldest and busiest food markets in America. In fact, local historians have verified 1792 as when the first scales of fish and other seafood began from the Wharf’s present location on Maine Avenue, SW, which until the mid-20th Century was named Water Street. It is a very good bet that our first President and his family ate fish sold by our earliest predecessors at the Fish Wharf. In the 1790’s, most fish and seafood sold at the Wharf came from the Potomac River and its tributaries, with some hardy Chesapeake Bay watermen bringing oysters, clams, crabs, fish, and other delicacies up the Potomac under sail. During the Civil War, the nearby Navy Yard was filled with vessels and was one of the busiest waterfronts in the region. In the early 1900’s gasoline and diesel engines replaced sail-powered vessels running the River, cutting the duration of a trip from the Eastern Shore to Washington from one week to one day. Construction of the Bay Bridge in the mid-1950’s made the trip from Crisfield, Maryland (called the “Seafood Capitol of the World”) a matter of hours. These advances in technology have helped to keep the price of seafood reasonable and our products as fresh as possible. In 1994, with BWI and Dulles International Airports giving local seafood lovers access to seafood from all over the world — from Alaska to South America, from South Africa to Bangladesh — and with hundreds of varieties of fish and shellfish available to our customers, the Washington area is truly a seafood lover’s paradise.
In 1913, The United States Congress formally declared the Municipal Fish Wharf to be “the sole wharf for landing of fish and oysters for the sale in the District of Columbia” (62nd Congress, Act of March 4th, 1913). Situated on federal land, the Wharf is the oldest open air retail seafood market in continuous existence in the United States. Because of its access to the Potomac River, Southwest is the oldest part of the city of Washington. While much has changed under to Urban Renewal Plan which runs from 1956 through November 30th, 1996, the fact that there has been little if any development at the Wharf this century makes it one of the few remaining ties to olden days when the Potomac was alive with commercial activity. Today’s lessees trace our own families’ involvement in the Wharf back to the discovery of the Chesapeake Bay by Capt. John Smith in 1609. Many of us are from the Eastern Shore. When not working at the Wharf, some of us are working watermen with deep roots to both the Eastern Shore and to the early days when our grandfathers, great grandfathers and earlier relatives would “run the river” to come to Washington under sail. There was a Harbor Master at the Wharf from the 1790’s until 1969, when the last one retired and was not replaced. In 1913, he was paid $75 per month by Congress. From 1913 until 1946, revenues from the Wharf divided equally , “one-half to the credit of the United States and one-half to the credit of the District of Colombia….” In 1946, Congress granted all revenues from the Wharf solely to the District. The old building where fish cleaning now takes place was originally the Cadillac Restaurant, a seafood restaurant which began in the 1890’s and closed in the 1960’s. And so, 230 years after the first sales of seafood began, we join together to thank our customers for their loyal patronage.