Stay In a Canal Lockhouse and Step Back in Time
The word is out….some of the best accommodations for cyclists and visitors alike to the DC area and the C&O Canal National Historic Park are the C&O Canal Trust Lockhouses.
No flowers or candlelit dinners for my wife on Mother’s Day! Cheryl choose for us to go biking in and around DC, and stay at Lockhouse 6 on the C&O Canal.
The Lockhouses, like all six of the Lockhouses available for rent are refurbished quarters that were originally built for those individuals and or families who worked full time opening and closing the canal lift locks for canal barges and boats traversing the 184.5-mile-long 605-foot elevation from Washington DC to Cumberland, MD during the 96 years the canal was in operation.
A lift lock was a watertight section of the canal that had wooden gates at both ends designed to either raise or lower the water level dependent upon whether a boar was traveling upstream or downstream. The lock tender was on duty all day every day to be
ready to “lock a boat through.” While one person could operate a lock, this exacting task was best accomplished by at least 2 people with a boat operator often assisting. The process usually took about 10 minutes. In addition to managing the boat traffic through the locks, lock keepers also performed light maintenance on the locks and adjacent structures. Lock tenders received $150 a year (raised to $600 by the 1870’s) a rent-free house (the lock house) some adjacent land for gardening and raising livestock. Many lock keepers and their families supplemented their income by selling produce, baked goods, and occasionally corn whiskey to the canal boatmen.
The C&O Canal Trust Lockhouse program offers six lockhouses for rent with amenities ranging rom descriptions as “full,” “electric only” to “rustic.” Each Canal Quarter lockhouse has been furnished with furniture and accessories from a different time periods, reflecting different stories of the development of the Canal and National Historic Park.
Our stay was at Lockhouse six, 5.4 miles from DC on Clara Barton parkway and one of
the two “full amenities” lockhouses for rent. The lockhouse is a compact 18’ x 32’ stone structure (probably thought of a spacious as the time). The original lockhouse was constructed in 1830 and destroyed by a flood in 1847 and rebuilt in 1848.
Of notably interest, just .4 of a mile “upstream” at Feeder Dam number 1 is where the original groundbreaking ceremony for the canal; officiated by President John Adams took place.
Lockhouse six features furnishing reminiscent of the 1950’s (picture I love Lucy in color and you have it), and the efforts of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to preserve the C&O Canal.
We found the lockhouse clean and very well maintained. Full amenities do not include internet or cable, a nice respite. It does include at Lockhouse six a full kitchen with stove, oven, and refrigerator, 2 attic bedrooms, shower and bathroom in the basement, parking, heat and air conditioning, and a beautiful covered porch.
Getting there by vehicle requires some planning as Clara Barton Parkway is closed to eastbound traffic from 2:45 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. Monday- Friday. You can only access Lockhouse 6 prior to 2:45 p.m. or after 7:15 p.m. Monday-Friday due to this traffic pattern change.
After dealing with typical DC area gridlock we arrived Friday evening to a designated
reserved spot for lockhouse renters. Bags must be carried a short distance along a gravel pathway so parking to minimize trips back to the car is advised. Bikes can be stored in the basement. And while the Lockhouse is adjacent to Clara Barton Parkway, we did not find the road traffic noise a distraction. The covered porch was a great place to have an after-ride drink and enjoy hearing the tree frogs and spring peepers.
DC is a bike friendly town and staying at Lockhouse six only 5.4 miles away or Lockhouse Ten 8.8 miles away are great ways for cyclist to visit the city. Cyclists can take the C&O Canal or Capital Crescent trail to Georgetown and then access DC via either the Rock Creek Park Trail or Mount Vernon Trail to the Mall and its monuments and museums.
Reservations can be made via the C&O Canal Trusts website.
Founded in 2007, the C&O Canal Trust is the official non-profit partner of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Their mission is to work in partnership with the National Park Service to protect, restore, and promote the C&O Canal. For more information about the Trust visit: www.canaltrust.org