Okay, I’m going to be honest with you: I’ve seen “lockhouse” and “lock house,” but the two word version doesn’t make my spellchecker (or is it spell checker?) go ballistic. Enough of the nonsense! Lock House 56 is located at mile 136.2 on the C&O and sits almost directly across the canal from an NPS parking lot accessible from Pearre Road. Also, it’s straight down the hill from the western terminus of the Western Maryland Rail Trail. A recent trip to Lock House 75 helped me to appreciate the conditions in which lock keepers lived. Most of these houses don’t offer any more living space than an average-sized apartment, but people didn’t need room for a big screen TV or a garage for the Buick.
I would have enjoyed opening the door and taking a look inside, but at this lock house, it’s not an option. Fortunately, in March of 2010 I was privileged enough to talk to two brothers who were among the last people to live in the house. They told childhood stories about burning spilled coal from the railroad, floating down the river on logs, and taking a dip in the lock. Eventually, both joined the military and served during World War II. They said that they returned every once in a while to reminisce about the old times. The lock itself was completed in 1849 (thank you, Steve Dean), and like many of the houses on the western end of the canal, work on the building was done by Hunter, Harris, and Company. Today, many bikers heading from Cumberland to Georgetown see the house as the point of debarkation for some easy pedaling on the rail trail, but if the walls could talk, I’m sure a lot of people would stop to listen.