The Lockkeepers House and Visitors Center in New Bremen, Ohio was part of the Miami and Erie Canal.
Over 150 years ago, hands dug the canals that crossed the State of Ohio. This water transportation system helped develop Ohio as settlers found an easier way into the wilderness and commerce found a cheaper way to expand. The Miami and Erie Canal, which ran 249 miles from Cincinnati to Toledo, was begun on July 25, 1825, near Middletown. It was built in sections until completed in 1845. The total cost was more than $8 million.
While that once vital waterway is no longer used as a pathway for moving goods, it has evolved into an important asset for recreation. Hiking and biking, bird watching and connecting with nature have replaced the slow-moving canal barges in our fast-paced society. A great place to learn about the past importance of the canal and enjoy it in the present is the Lockkeepers House Canal Visitors Center in New Bremen, Ohio. The center was built in the footprint and image of the original Lockkeeper’s house which stood on that spot for more than a century. Inside the new visitors center, you can view artifacts from the canal as well as pictures from that era. Located adjacent to the canal, you can imagine the lockkeeper rushing from his home to raise (or lower) the water in the lock so that the canal barge could continue on its way with goods or passengers. Lock One North in New Bremen has been restored to its 1910 appearance with a concrete water control structure and wooden lock gates matching the original gates to reflect the historical workings of the lock.
While in New Bremen be sure to appreciate the many restored canal era buildings and don’t miss the Bicycle Museum of America. Just north of New Bremen, canal hikers will find the Keunning-Dicke Natural Area. The 67-acre parcel, with a pond, prairie grass areas and woodlands, provides a great spot for primitive camping, picnicking, or just enjoying nature.
In St. Marys, Canal Lock 13 has been restored, and a lovely brick walkway and park setting make it a beautiful canal destination. St. Marys Memorial Park is home to the Belle of St. Marys, a replica canal boat and also features a covered bridge and clock tower. While in St. Marys don’t miss Heritage Park with a mural highlighting the history of this canal community and check out Grand Lake St. Marys, Ohio’s largest inland lake. This 13,500-acre body of water was constructed originally to serve as a source of water for the canal. For more information, visit http://www.seemore.org/.