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Iconic “Swains” Lockhouse Opens to Public as Canal Quarters Overnight Accommodations

After three years of fundraising, planning, and construction, the C&O Canal Trust, the nonprofit partner of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, today cut the ribbon at the newly-rehabilitated Swains Lockhouse. This historic lockhouse, located at a popular entrance point to the C&O Canal National Historical Park (NHP) at Lock 21 in Potomac, Maryland, will join the C&O Canal Trust’s award-winning Canal Quarters program as the seventh lockhouse available to guests for overnight stays.

Pictured left to right: Matt Higgins, representative for Councilmember Andrew Friedson; Bill Holdsworth, President, C&O Canal Association; Michael C. Mitchell, Former Chair, C&O Canal Trust; Delegate Sara Love; Ken Reichard, representative for Senator Ben Cardin; Kevin Brandt, Superintendent, C&O Canal National Historical Park; Steve Chaudet, Chair, C&O Canal Trust; Robert Mertz, C&O Canal Trust volunteer who developed the furnishing plan for Swains Lockhouse; Senator Susan Lee; Bert Swain, C&O Canal Trust Board Member and member of the Swain family who grew up in the lockhouse; Robin Zanotti, President, C&O Canal Trust; Don Harrison, President, Friends of the Historic Great Falls Tavern


Speaking at the event were C&O Canal NHP Superintendent Kevin Brandt, C&O Canal Trust Board Chair Stephen Chaudet, and Trust Board Member Bert Swain, who grew up in Swains Lockhouse with his family.

Attendees at the event toured the rehabilitated lockhouse, which has been furnished to depict the 1916 time period. Authentic antique furnishings decorate the historic rooms, mingled with exhibits and scrapbooks that relate the canal’s history and the lives of the generations of Swains who used to call the lockhouse home.

Swains Lockhouse has a local family story closely associated with it, making it unique among the canal’s historic structures. Bert Swain has been involved with the project from the start. Many of his family photos are on display in the house, along with charming stories of his childhood on the canal, including his experience with Hurricane Agnes, the animals that called Lockhouse 21 home, and the community his family fostered around the stone lock. A true family of the canal, Swain family ancestors helped build the canal in the mid-1800s and worked on canal boats and as canal lock keepers before opening a concession stand once the canal closed to boat traffic in 1924.

“We are here to celebrate the rebirth of Swains Lockhouse — an iconic landmark along the C&O Canal,” Chaudet told the 80 supporters who gathered for the ribbon cutting. “Built in 1830, Swains has seen a lot of history. The story might have ended there, with Lockhouse 21 slowly crumbling. Instead, today marks the first day of a whole new chapter in its life.”

The rehabilitation was funded through a public-private partnership, with the C&O Canal Trust raising $100,000 that was leveraged to secure private donations and public funding. The rehabilitation cost approximately $500,000. Stays in the lockhouse will cost guests $160 a night, with all revenue being used for the continued preservation of the lockhouses.

“The collaboration that made this possible between the National Park Service, the C&O Canal Trust, Friends of the Historic Great Falls Tavern, and the C&O Canal Association represents public-private partnership at its best,” said Chaudet. “I believe that it is just a preview of what we can achieve in the future as the C&O Canal Trust grows to meet the challenges of our national park’s future.”

As part of the Canal Quarters program, up to 8 people can spend the night at Swains, in two upstairs bedrooms and in a Murphy bed on the first floor, part of the ADA-accessible accommodations in the lockhouse, along with an accessible shower in the first floor bathroom and a ramp into the house.

The lockhouse will be open to the public for tours on Saturday, June 29 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. as part of Heritage Montgomery’s Heritage Days 2019.

More information and photographs of the rehabilitation can be found at www.CanalTrust.org/Swains. More information about the Canal Quarters program can be found at www.CanalTrust.org/quarters.