C&O Canal National Historic Park Headquarters

Cultural, Historic, Award Winning, Historic

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The headquarters of the C&O Canal National Historic Park is relocated from a remote site to anchor a historic canal town. The result is a community asset in the central region of the 184-mile C&O Canal, which follows the Potomac River westward from Washington, DC.

The new 22,000 sf headquarters serves both visitors and National Park Service staff with offices, meeting rooms, and visitor resources. Transforming a former industrial lumber mill site, the new structure is sited and organized to create a public plaza with views to the canal framed by historic storefronts along the town’s main street. The gabled form and board and batten siding is a contemporary expression derivative of the agrarian-influenced industrial buildings along the canal. The building’s mass is broken down into two main components, responding to the site’s topography and optimizing the relationships to the surrounding context. Mechanical equipment is concealed by its discrete placement between the two gabled volumes. Deep entry canopies and generous site elements integrate the building and landscape with exposed stormwater management, coreten steel panels, and heavy timber benches.  The visitor experience is enhanced by a dialogue between history and present day.


Extending beyond the project site, the design enhances connection and accessibility to the interpretive historic landscape and extensive trail system. Generous parking is provided above the flood plain with improved connections across the state highway main street and accessible paths to the canal basin, restored aqueduct, and towpaths below. The transformed site becomes a destination for visitors and locals alike, communicating the National Park Service’s commitment to the sustainability of the canal, trails, and community.

The project adhered to requirements from multiple jurisdictions, review agencies, Section 106 Compliance, and the National Park Service.


Design Team: Steve Ziger; Ann Powell; Michael Westrate; Claire Edelen

Location: Williamsport, MD

Owner: National Park Service; Maryland Economic Development Corp. 

Area: 22,000 sf

Completion: 2021