Metamora landmark receives rare national designation
It’s no secret the Duck Creek Aqueduct on the Whitewater Canal in Metamora is something special, but just how special is growing by leaps and bounds. The first leap was in 1973 when it was listed along with the Metamora Grist Mill on the National Register of Historic Places. The second was in 1992 when it was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
The third happened recently when Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Johnathan B. Jarvis announced it was named a National Historic Landmark along with eight other national sites. There are more than 96,251 historic sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but only 2,544 National Historic Landmarks, making this latest designation a rare honor.
In making the announcement Secretary Jewell said, “By designating these new national landmarks we ensure that America's history of innovation, vision and diversity are celebrated today and for future generations. . . . These new national historic landmarks can educate and inspire Americans with their country’s rich history, as well as drive tourism and boost local economies.”
A plaque beside the structure says, “The Duck Creek Aqueduct was originally built in 1843 to convey the canal over Duck Creek 16 feet below. Flood waters in 1847 destroyed the aqueduct, which was soon replaced by the present 70-foot, Burr arch truss structure.”
The Burr arch of the Duck Creek Aqueduct is not a true Burr arch, according to Metamora historian Paul Baudendistel. He said a true Burr arch would link into the rock abutments. But after the 1847 flood the original arch was replaced with what is called a modified Burr arch which only goes to the floor of the structure not all the way to the abutments.
There was some question among local authorities about how this designation came about. Jay Dishman, the Metamora site manager for Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, was not aware of any actions by his department to that end. He said the long process of paperwork may have begun when the Department of Natural Resources was in charge of the site.
But an email from Indiana historic bridge expert Dr. James Cooper cleared up the mystery. He passed along an email from Christopher H. Marston, Architect & Project Leader of the National Park Service’s American Engineering Record. In it Mr. Marston writes, “This achievement represents a twelve-year effort by the Historic American Engineering Record as part of the Federal Highway Administration's National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program.”
Gail Ginther of Historic Metamora said, Mr. Marston “led the team that was here doing the intensive survey of the aqueduct a few years ago.”
The National Park Service nomination declares, “Duck Creek Aqueduct is the only surviving covered wood aqueduct in the United States.” Whether there was another such structure had been an outstanding question in Metamora until this authoritative declaration.