Saturday, March 1, 2003

Observation deck in works for canal tunnel

By Angela T. Koenig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CLEVES - An observation deck is planned for viewing the historic Cincinnati/Whitewater Canal Tunnel in Cleves.

"It will be a vantage point where people can look down at the tunnel," said Nancy Gulick, chairwoman of the Three Rivers Historical Society Canal Preservation Committee, which formed in 1996.

The preservation committee hopes to restore a portion of the tunnel and develop the surrounding 7 acres on South Miami Avenue, across from Taylor High School, into a public park that highlights canal history.

The Cincinnati/Whitewater Canal Tunnel, built between 1839 and 1843, is one of only a handful of intact canal tunnels in the nation. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Originally, it was 1,782 feet long and extended from Cleves to North Bend. It is made of about 2 million bricks manufactured on site, and was built on land once owned by President William Henry Harrison, an ardent supporter of canal transportation.

In the late 1950s, a portion of the tunnel collapsed because of highway construction. About 1,100 feet remain, Gulick said.

Mayor Joe Whitton said council has already given a vote of confidence for $3,000 for the observation deck.

Long-term plans are to open enough of the structure, which is nearly filled with silt, to have a canal boat replica travel in and out, so passengers could feel what it was like to use this mode of transportation. The entire project, which includes developing the land, could run in the millions, committee members said.

"The big money is going to have to come from grants and funding sources," said Gulick.

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