A ropewalk is a long straight narrow lane, or a covered pathway, where long strands of material were laid before being twisted into rope. These long, slender walks evolved because making rope from hemp meant it had to be stretched to its full length. The rope maker literally “walked” the rope, twisting it as he moved. The practice began as an ancient handcraft — pictures from ancient Egyptian tombs show men walking while making rope. When it was mechanized in the 19th century the craft moved indoors. Ropewalks historically were harsh sweatshops, and frequently caught on fire, as hemp dust forms an explosive mixture.
Charlestown had been making rope since 1638 and at one time there were several outdoor rope walks in the town.