Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park | LOCK AND LOCKHOUSE 56

Lock and Lockhouse 56 (photo by Jerry Edmundson)

Lock and Lockhouse 56 (photo by Jerry Edmundson)


Lock and Lockhouse 56 are located at Mile 136.2 on the C&O Canal towpath. There is a public parking lot on Pearre Road. Walk down to the towpath and take a right. The lock is .3 mile upstream. See the Locks and Lockhouses web page for an interactive location map.


Along with the lock itself stands Lockhouse 56 (it is not open to the public). A lockhouse is the residence of the man who was hired to operate the lock. In addition to a yearly salary, he and his family—almost all lockkeepers were family men—lived in the company provided lockhouse and had use of an acre of land for farming. Those who tended multiple locks got extra money per lock, up to two. The locks had to be very close together for the C&O Canal Company to assign multiple locks to one person.

Operating the lock was a year-round, 24-hour-a-day job. When a canal boat approached, the captain would blow a whistle to notify the lockkeeper. If it were nighttime, somebody had to wake up and go to work. Of course that’s the benefit of being a family man—your kids had to get up for the late night and early morning arrivals!

Like the other lockhouses at the far western end of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Lockhouse 56 is made of wood. As you travel towards Georgetown you will find more and more stone lockhouses. The reason for this is that it was harder to deliver quarried stone to the western end of the canal, so the houses were built with wood and the stone was reserved for the construction of the locks.

If you don’t mind walking a little farther, the Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct is another .4 mile upstream.

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Last updated on April 23, 2020
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