By Rick Palsgrove
Ohio and Erie Canal lock 22, located in the northern part of Groveport Park, could soon be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cathy Nelson, an independent historical preservation coordinator, as well as a member of the Canal Society of Ohio, is working to place lock 22 and nine other historic locks located on the southern leg of the Ohio and Erie Canal on the National Register.
“I want to be a strong advocate and help preserve these locks and their history,” said Nelson.
During the canal’s heyday in the 19th century, 55 locks were situated on the Ohio and Erie Canal from the Licking Summit in Newark to the Ohio River. The locks’ function was to raise and lower boats on the canal to meet the changing terrain.
Along with lock 22 in Groveport, Nelson is seeking to place the Bibler Lock (lock 8 in Baltimore); locks 26, 27, 29, and 30 in Lockbourne; lock 31 in Millport; and locks 48, 50, and 55 in Scioto County on the National Register. She plans to submit all 10 locks in a package National Register request to help establish an Ohio and Erie canal historic corridor in central and southern Ohio.
While National Register status does not prevent a structure from being demolished, Nelson said it does raise awareness about a structure’s historical significance so people will want to preserve it.
“There are many locks in northeast Ohio that are on the National Register, but none in the southern part of the canal,” said Nelson. “People love transportation history and will travel to areas to see canal remnants and sites. These visitors enhance the local economy by bringing in tourism dollars to communities. A historic corridor that people could visit would be fabulous for the towns where these locks are located.”
Nelson said the Ohio State Preservation Office has said the 10 locks qualify for submission for National Register status. However, she said she must gather more information regarding the existence of other canal features near the locks, such as the presence of a towpath and visible canal channel, to enhance the application.
Lock 22 in Groveport is nearly 190-years-old, is made of sandstone block, and is 90 feet long with a 15 foot wide channel. The lock is owned and maintained by the city of Groveport.
“Lock 22 is in great shape for its age,” said Nelson.
The canal channel is still visible near lock 22 as well as in Groveport’s Blacklick Park and along Rohr Road south of town. Additionally, a dry dock and canal boatyard operated in the 1800s in what is now Blacklick Park. The canal operated in Groveport from 1831 to the early 1900s.
Nelson plans to submit her completed application to the Ohio State Preservation Office in November and, if they approve, it will then be sent on to Washington, D.C., for consideration of National Register of Historic Places status. National Register officials could make their decision on the application in about a year.
“This is an aggressive project because of the distance between the 10 locks and the number of communities involved,” said Nelson. “The canal story is fascinating. Think of how hard it was to construct the canal. It was hard labor done by hand with shovels and picks. It’s an extraordinary piece of Ohio history. That we still have many of the stone locks in place that help tell that story is amazing. It’s a story that deserves to be told.”