Painting the Town…Brown

Town Creek Aqueduct handrail

Town Creek Aqueduct handrail

About a year ago, Candee and I were fortunate enough to be appointed Canal Stewards at the Town Creek Aqueduct.  It was different than our usual level walking assignment in that the steward program focuses on a specific site and requires a bit more attention to detail.  Being from Martinsburg, WV, it’s difficult to give this magnificent structure the time that it deserves, so painting the handrail over the July 4th weekend was the perfect opportunity to make things a little bit better along the towpath.

Another view

Another view

Painting the rail was an all-day affair, so I did get to meet several people who showed an interest in the aqueduct.  It is in better condition than most smaller aqueducts on the western end of the canal (Fifteen Mile Creek being a possible exception), but in the words of Thomas Hahn, “Much of the aqueduct was rebuilt in 1977 and is now in stabilized condition, though the appearance is lacking in authenticity and somewhat in sensitivity.”  I’m inclined to disagree with Hahn’s criticism, but I suppose that’s up for debate.  One truly authentic feature of this aqueduct, and many others, are the weeds and shrubbery that inhabit the mortar of both the upstream and downstream walls.  Mother Nature is definitely a tough opponent! Fortunately, however, this single arch structure–at least during my observations–hasn’t had the added strain of flood debris that plagues the aqueducts across Conococheague and Seneca Creeks.

I feel very fortunate to have such a great national park in close proximity.  However, the 184.5 miles of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is both a blessing and a curse–albeit a small one. It is kind of difficult for the professional staff to keep up with everything that can possibly go wrong between Cumberland and Georgetown!  During a recent storm, 200+ trees blew down along the towpath, and the maintenance crew had a tough task ahead of them.  With this in mind, volunteers play a major role in keeping the C&O up and running, and I had a great time making a small contribution to the well-being of the park.  Let’s just hope my paint job holds up for a few years! looks good from here!

Hmmm…it looks good from here!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jamie on July 12, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    I am not much of an architectural critic. I look at something and decide whether I like it or not. The view of the aqueduct from downstream on Town Creek is a nice one. Yet, it does have a different feel than the other aqueducts along the canal. I’ve tried to put my finger on it and the only thing I can come up with is that the ring stones on the arch strike me as somehow odd. Saying that, however, is not to say that I don’t like the aqueduct, because I do.

    Be that as it may, thanks to you, Candee and all the volunteers who assist in caring for the park. I am sure I speak for many by saying your work is much appreciated!


    • Posted by LevelWalker on July 13, 2014 at 11:49 am


      I’ll be honest with you; I have never noticed anything about the aqueduct, and actually had never read that specific passage from Hahn until recently. I agree that knowing this doesn’t detract from the beauty, significance, etc. of the structure. I thinks it’s a magnificent piece of work–no matter who set the stones.

      I once again applaud your ability to notice things that others miss–myself included. I’m still working on my canal appreciation from some standpoint other than it’s a great place to walk or ride a bike. Which brings me to volunteering in the park…

      One of my concerns is that, as a 51 year-old, I am usually one of the younger people at volunteer dinners, group hikes, etc. I can’t say that I lose any sleep over it, but I do wonder if there will be a “next generation” that takes an interest in things like culverts, waste weirs, etc. The NPS runs on a shoestring budget (and the rangers and maintenance staff at the C&O do a really good job!), and I hope somebody down the road has the gumption to gripe to his or her representatives the next time a Town Creek Aqueduct (or whatever) needs to be rebuilt, or even refurbished. Fortunately, some money is donated to take school children on field trips to the C&O, and maybe the next great canal historian has already taken an interest. Sorry about the rant!


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