A historic aqueduct in Western Maryland has been restored nearly four decades after two of its three arches collapsed, leaving the now-139-year-old structure in ruins.
State and federal lawmakers held a ceremony Saturday near Point of Rocks, about 15 miles southeast of Frederick along the Maryland-Virginia border, to celebrate the reopening of the Catoctin Aqueduct, one of 11 aqueducts along the 184.5 miles of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.
"It just couldn't have been a more perfect day," said George E. Lewis Jr., a veterinarian who is president of the Catoctin Aqueduct Restoration Fund Inc., by phone Saturday.
A bald eagle circled the crowd of about 300, which included Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Lewis said.
The landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was restored with federal stimulus funds and donations from residents and organizations.
"The [National] Park Service, they're the stewards of our heritage, but at the same time they don't have the money or the manpower" needed for projects like the aqueduct restoration, Lewis said.
He added: "There's well over 1,000 people who basically own a piece of this project."
Rehabilitation of the aqueduct — which federal and local officials say will boost tourism in Frederick County — began last summer. The project included the restoration of the arches using the aqueduct's original stones, which were retrieved from Catoctin Creek, according to a news release from the C&O Canal National Historical Park.
The project also included work to stabilize "wing walls" to protect the aqueduct from flooding, which is what destroyed the structure decades ago.
The canal operated from 1831 to 1924. Its principal cargo was coal mined in the Allegheny Mountains. With competition from railroads, the canal gradually fell into disuse.