The C&O Canal Trust announced today that the National Park Service Centennial Challenge Program has provided a $100,000 matching grant to support the rehabilitation of Swains Lockhouse in Potomac. The grant, supported by Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, will be matched by $108,160 raised by the C&O Canal Trust, the Friends of Historic Great Falls Tavern, and the C&O Canal Association. It will be used to fund deferred maintenance on a critically-endangered lockhouse.
After the rehabilitation is complete, Swains Lockhouse (Lockhouse 21) will join the award-winning Canal Quarters program, a program that has so far provided for the rehabilitation of six historic lockhouses located along the C&O Canal. Swains Lockhouse will be the seventh lockhouse to join the program, and the first rehabilitation undertaken since 2011.
“The C&O Canal National Historical Park is one of Maryland’s most beloved landmarks, generating economic activity and attracting thousands of visitors every year,” said Senator Cardin. “This investment in critical park repairs will help keep the C&O safe and accessible for years to come.”
“The C&O Canal National Historical Park provides recreational opportunities and economic activity over a broad swath of Maryland,” said Senator Van Hollen. “The repairs funded by this grant and support from friends of the Park will ensure visitors will continue to enjoy the Park’s natural beauty and rich history.”
The $100,000 comes from the National Park Service Centennial Challenge Program, which distributed $20 million from Congress to more than 50 park partners to improve trails, restore buildings, and increase visitor access to parks. Grants were given to parks that had friends groups able to match the funds 1:1. The C&O Canal Trust raised $75,000 for the project from individual donors and a grant from the France-Merrick Foundation. The Friends of Historic Great Falls Tavern and the C&O Canal Association jointly contributed the balance.
Swains Lockhouse will be unique in that it will be the first accessible lockhouse, and also multi-purpose, due to its larger size thanks to a 1890s expansion. Part of the building will house the Canal Quarters program, with accommodations for up to eight guests. The newer part of the building will become a dining room for the Canal Quarters program, which will transform into a classroom space on spring and fall weekdays for the Canal Classrooms program. Students on educational trips to the Park will be able to participate in learning activities in this space, only steps away from the canal, Lock 21, and the Potomac River. Plans for an artist-in-residence during the off-season have also been discussed.
Each lockhouse currently in the Canal Quarters program was rehabilitated and furnished to depict a specific time in Canal history between 1830-1954. Visitors are able to spend up to three nights in the Quarters for a nightly fee. Swains Lockhouse will interpret 1916, the year the National Park Service was created, and also an important time in the Canal’s history, when it was transitioning from being a commercial to a recreational resource.