C&O headquarters could become tourist attraction

April 09, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHARPSBURG - Ferry Hill, headquarters of the C&O Canal National Historic Park, could become a living history tourist attraction, according to the park's superintendent.

Superintendent Doug Faris said the canal park's staff of about 20 employees has outgrown the Ferry Hill building and would begin looking for new quarters.

At the same time, he said, officials would study the possibility of restoring the former plantation along the Potomac River off Shepherdstown Pike and turning it into a tourist attraction.

Federal funds for a historical cultural study of the land will be available this fall, he said.

Faris said it had not been decided whether the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park's headquarters would remain in Washington County or move to neighboring Frederick County.


Faris said he believes the headquarters should be closer to Interstate 70 between Hagerstown and Frederick.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and John Howard, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, both said they want to keep the canal headquarters in Washington County.

"We'll definitely being making a pitch to them about it," Snook said.

Turning Ferry Hill into a tourist attraction could complement Antietam National Battlefield and draw more people from the West Virginia side of the Potomac, Snook said.

Because it is between Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and Antietam, Ferry Hill has the potential to draw tourists, said Washington County historian John Frye.

The home has been well-maintained, a plus when it comes time for restoration, Frye said.

Modern additions could be removed from the side of the house, Frye and Faris said.

Faris said he envisions half of the rooms being refurbished and half featuring canal-related artifacts, such as documents signed by George Washington that predate the canal and the original canal seal.

Most, if not all, of the original outbuildings no longer remain, Frye said. Slave quarters, barns and wagon sheds were destroyed, either by federal troops during the Civil War or after World War II when the establishment became a restaurant, he said.

Park officials would consider razing some modern auxiliary buildings and landscaping to restore the historical appearance of the property, Faris said. That work could include planting crops and clearing trees to restore the direct view to the canal at the bottom of the hill, he said.

The park owns fewer than 50 of the roughly 700 acres belonging to the original plantation, Faris said.

Faris said park officials hope to find a partner to help fund the restoration and operate the living history exhibits.

Washington County tourism head Ben R. Hart said making Ferry Hill a tourist attraction would give visitors more to do in the area.

A goal of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau is to persuade tourists to stay longer, said Hart, the bureau's executive director.

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