First lady urges preservation partnership Md. aqueduct on list of endangered historic sites

June 16, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

If you are known by the company you keep, the long-neglected Monocacy Aqueduct just got famous.

Maryland's U.S. senators and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton stood alongside the pre-Civil War structure yesterday to call for a public-private partnership to save pieces of American history.

The aqueduct, part of the C&O Canal National Park, is one of the nation's 11 most endangered sites listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The list is in its 10th year.

Clinton called the list an important annual reminder of the fragile nature of history. "The Trust is once again giving us a road map of what we must do as individuals and as a nation to ensure our rich and diverse heritage," she said.

Clinton said she was no stranger to the canal's charms or its plight. "I sometimes sneak away from the White House and take a walk or ride my bike along the canal," she said. "I just cannot imagine not having that place to escape to."

During the C&O Canal's heyday, the stone structure carried mule-drawn barges more than 500 feet over the Monocacy River from Montgomery County to Frederick County. Now it is part of a 185-mile park along the Potomac River from Georgetown to Cumberland.

The first lady also used the occasion to promote her husband's Millennium Fund to Save America's Treasures, a program to preserve documents and sites through a combination of federal money and private donations.

"We've been working very hard to persuade individual Americans to contribute their private dollars to saving public treasures," Clinton said. "We are the only nation that works together in our public sector and our private sector to meet the needs we are talking about today."

Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski vowed to lobby for the federal money to get the aqueduct off the endangered list. Monocacy is the only Maryland site this year.

"We're going to make lemonade out of lemons," Sarbanes said. "We want to put Monocacy Aqueduct on the list of the best preserved historic places."

Keeping the promise will cost $5 million.

Hurricane Agnes weakened the aqueduct in 1972, forcing the National Park Service to build a network of steel-and-wooden braces inside and out.

Flooding in the winter and fall of 1996 did further damage to the masonry and the six piers that anchor the aqueduct. Engineers fear that without restoration, the structure might not be able to withstand another flood.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation listed 10 other sites as most endangered: Governor's Island, N.Y.; historically black colleges and universities, nationwide; Great Bowdoin Mill, Topsham, Maine; Chancellorsville Battlefield, Spotsylvania County, Va., and Michigan's historic lighthouses.

Also 225 historic county courthouses in Texas; Blackhawk and Central City, Colo., former mining towns; Mesa Verde National Park, Colo.; Mapes Hotel, Reno, Nev.; and Cannery Row, Monterey, Calif.

Pub Date: 6/16/98

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