Lock House 44 project hits home

Project is dedicated to woman in honor of her family

Project is dedicated to woman in honor of her family

August 10, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT - As she strolled down to Lock House 44 along the C&O Canal recently, Lou Harsh said the memories of her childhood growing up in that house came flooding back.

Now "92 and 1/2 years old," Harsh said she is pleased that the Potomac Garden Club of Williamsport has taken on the task of planting around the historic building so it will look somewhat as it did many years ago.

"We devised a plan from Lou's memory," said Nancy Cowden, immediate past president and chairwoman of the club's preservation committee. "It's a little whittled down but it's close."


Soil was brought in and a mix of perennials and annuals were planted. Cowden said more annuals will be added in the future.

The beautification project has caught the eye of folks who regularly jog or walk along the canal. One walker, Linda Perry, shared her feeling that the work was worthy of recognition.

"People were so impressed when we were planting," Harsh said.

Harsh, a charter and still active member of the garden club, lived in the lock house with her parents from 1915 until 1937. Her father, Harvey Brant, was the lock tender.

"Those were happy days," Harsh said. "We swam in the canal in the summer and skated on it in the winter."

When a boat came through the canal, the whole family helped.

In order to get in as many trips as possible, the canal was kept open as long as possible in the cold weather months, Harsh said. When the water level was lowered to about a foot and the canal was inoperable, Harsh said, her father worked at the tannery.

"We had no electricity and no water in the house at first," Harsh said. "We had to walk about 100 yards to a spring for drinking and cooking water."

After the canal ceased operations in 1924, Harsh's parents continued to live in the lock house until 1961 when the canal was proclaimed a national monument.

That meant they were living there when the 1936 flood came and Harsh said she remembers that year very well.

"The water was up to the crest of the roof," Harsh said as she stood outside her childhood home. "We stood on the hill and watched the water come up."

The garden club contacted the National Park Service in 2002 to get permission to plant flowers, herbs and trees around the house, Cowden said. A committee of members created a plan with the botanical architecture done by Dick Grimm.

In March 2004, the park service approved the plan and two red maple trees were planted that spring.

In April and May of this year, the club planted black-eyed Susans, coral bells, sedum and hostas. Parsley, sage and chives were added along with red salvia, marigolds and scarlet begonias.

The expense of the plant material and the maintenance is the club's, Cowden said.

Club members who participated in the plantings included Cowden, JoAnne Miller, Ruth Ann Snook, Bonnie Reed and Johnna Maravelis. Assistance was provided by Greg Snook, Dick Grimm and Marshall Maravelis.

"The project is dedicated to Lou Harsh in memory of her family," Cowden said.

The new club co-presidents are Donna Souders and Jo Ann Keller.

The club meets September through June at Zion Lutheran Church on the third Tuesday at 12:30 p.m.

The Potomac Garden Club has 40 members and has been in existence for 37 years, Cowden said.

In addition to the lock house project, the club decorates the Williamsport Memorial Library at Christmas and provides Christmas and Easter presents for residents at the Williamsport Retirement Village among other projects, flower shows and educational activities.

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