A few months ago, I signed up to volunteer at Lock House 75 (mile 175.7), and it turned out to be a unique opportunity to learn a little bit about the C&O Canal and its history. I don’t claim to be a history buff, and I have to admit that I learned a few things from the visitors as well. Some people really know their stuff! Nevertheless, I’m going to take my best shot at hitting some of the high points. For starters, the lock house is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from May 26th to September 30th (10 am to 4 pm), and there’s plenty of reading material available in the form of brochures. Likewise, visitors can peruse material pertaining to the many boats that plied the canal’s waters, as well as the duties of a lock keeper. Ever wondered how a canal boat passed through a lock? Well, there’s an interesting poster that explains the process inside of the lock house.
The lock house was built in 1850 by the Hunter Harris Construction Company, and it is the last log structure of its kind standing on the C&O Canal. Like many companies associated with the C&O, Hunter Harris went bankrupt during the building of the canal. Over the years, a “dust beetle infiltration” did a number on the original lock house, but it was rebuilt in 1978, and some of the old timbers were reused in the process.
Yes, the house is tiny. I’m going to guess that there is a combined 750 sq’ of space between the ground and top floors, and there is a small cellar below ground level. However, there’s something about the place that makes it feel like home. The Keefers (last lock keeper and various family members) were the last family to occupy the original structure. They were there from 1913-1955, which is interesting considering that the C&O Canal ceased operations in 1924. A few years ago, I talked to a couple of gentlemen who lived at the lock house at Pearre Station well after the canal shut down, so I suppose it wasn’t an uncommon practice.
In all, there are plenty of interesting C&O Canal displays to see right off of Maryland Rt. 51. In Oldtown (mile 166.7), Lock House 70 is open from 10 am until 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays from June 3rd through September 2nd, and from May 26th through September 1st, park rangers do an informational walk at the Paw Paw Tunnel from 1:30 to 3:30 pm. In all, monitoring Lock House 75 was a great experience, and I hope to do it again next year. I learned a lot, and next time I’ll be ready for the tough questions!