A widow's walk is the name generally given to a raised platform at or near the top of a house, generally with a railing (often wrought iron). As most widow's walks are on the roof of the house, they are easy to distinguish from balconies.
Almost never found on new houses, and almost solely found in the architecture of communities with a harbour, the main purpose of the walk was to allow a look out to the water, allowing a person to observe the ships near the town.
The name "widow's walk" is derived from the practise of many women going out to the platform to watch the water before or during a storm, to know if their husbands or sons were going to survive the dangerous weather.
Another account of the nomenclature of the walk is that since whalers were often gone for long periods of time (months or even years), the "widows" stand in the enclosed area, looking out to sea, hoping to spot their men coming home.