Four Legged Crew Member Added to Survey

Our Phase III prehistoric site excavation in southwest Ohio had a visitor this weekend. ASC utilized a cadaver dog survey, with Pocket, a Parson Russell Terrier. L-R Cheryl Johnston, of Ohio State University, flanker Sarah, of KYK9 Rescue Service, Jennifer Jordan Hall, Director KYK9 Search and Reunite, and ASC’s Kevin Schwarz.

Welcome Catherine Holland

Catherine Holland has been with ASC Group since April as an Ecologist at ASC’s Indianapolis office. She does ecological fieldwork, NEPA documentation, IPAC’s, archeological surveys, and assisting with marketing. She is a graduate of Ball State University with a MS in Natural Resources & Environmental Management, where her thesis research focused on the abundance of mycorrhizal fungi spores in relationship to orchidaceae symbionts.

Revisiting the Towpath

Archaeological Investigation of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Summit County, Ohio

by David F. Klinge, MA, RPA

Portion of the 1994 Akron West, Ohio quadrangle (USGS 7.5′ topographic map) showing the project location.

ASC Group, Inc. (ASC) has recently completed a small data recovery project to mitigate adverse effects to the Ohio and Erie Canal as it passes through the Cities of Barberton and Akron in Summit County. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) proposed to construct a series of barrier structures along the towpath and canal-related structures to prevent invasive Asian carp from migrating from the Tuscarawas River to the Canal and Cuyahoga River. These resulted in direct affects to the towpath and visual affects to canal corridor, which has been determined eligible for and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Although the Ohio and Erie Canal’s historic and cultural significance has been well established, the towpath has been given relatively little attention. Constructed of excavated spoil from the canal prism, subject to countless episodes of repair and rehabilitation, and finally converted into a recreational trail conforming to modern safety standards, it is easy to assume the towpath retains little integrity or does not retain the ability to provide meaningful data beyond its location. But it is possible to identify and define significant events in the history of the canal through the archaeology of the towpath.

The canal was built between 1825 and 1832 and connected Lake Erie at Cleveland to the Ohio River at Portsmouth. Construction specifications were developed and included in the bid documents for potential contractors and required the canal to be at least 40 feet wide at the water’s surface, 26 feet wide at the bottom of the prism, and at least four feet deep. General specifications for the towpath were also included but there were no specifications for the surface of the towpath or the weight it was anticipated to hold. There were clear directives on the breadth and height of the canal embankments, one of which needed to support the towpath, in various situations in which the water in the canal was lower than, even with, or higher than the adjacent lands, but not on its surface or makeup other than to note it was built of the best available locally excavated soil (McClelland and Huntingdon 1905:161).

View facing west of a low spot along the Towpath Trail, where the trail height and towpath surface falls below the 100-year flood level.

The lack of directives created a situation in which the matrix, if not the form, of the towpath was highly varied along its length. Only the form of the towpath was governed by any measureable specifications.

This situation was compounded by an annual cycle of repair and rehabilitation. The annual freeze/thaw cycle and spring freshets caused damage to the canal and the towpath, in particular, was prone to erosion. These phenomena destroyed portions of the towpath and also deposited sediment loads in the prism that needed to be dredged (Unrau and Scrattish 1984).

This annual maintenance meant that for much of its life the canal was a financial burden on the state and as such it was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair by the end of the nineteenth century. Following the mid-nineteenth century rise of the railroads, traffic on the canal declined year after year and repair and maintenance costs exceeded the canal’s annual receipts from 1856 until 1913 (McClelland and Huntingdon 1905:110–111).

In the first decade of the twentieth century, a major repair program was initiated with the stated goal of making the canal once again an asset to Ohio industries (Whitman and Mustain 2001). As with original bids, the 1905 construction bids contained no specifications for the towpath except to note that it was to be made of dredged fill from the prism and leelled by state repair gangs (Board of Public Works 1905 and 1909).

Despite the overhaul, the Ohio and Erie Canal and nearly the entirety of the canal system in Ohio was abandoned after a massive spring flood in 1913 caused such extensive damage that a return to operation was deemed unfeasible (Whitman and Mustain 2001). At the end of the twentieth century, a rising appreciation for our historic built environment led to the advent of the Towpath Trail, portions of which are still under construction. This rehabilitated the towpath to a modern multi-use trail system with new trail bedding, surface treatments, and conforming to current safety standards.

To mitigate the effect of the USACE’s nuisance species project on the towpath, ASC excavated three one-meter by one-meter (3.3 ft. x 3.3 ft.) test units. One test unit was placed in each of three areas where construction plans had the greatest potential to affect the towpath. Each unit was situated to investigate the southern shoulder of the Towpath Trail, extending approximately 30 cm (12 in) into the paved surface, while leaving sufficient space on the trail for bikers, pedestrians, park maintenance vehicles, etc., to pass. Two of the three units recovered sufficient stratigraphic information and artifacts to interpret the sequence of construction from ca. 1825 to the present.

View facing west of unit excavation along the towpath.


The units were excavated to a depth of 1.5 m (5 ft.) below the Towpath Trail surface. Although these excavations did not expose sterile subsoil, or even the base of the original towpath, it was sufficiently deep to expose soils from the ca. 1825 construction. The two intact units had varied stratigraphy, but based on included artifacts the various soil lenses could be separated into broader stratigraphic units based on likely depositional history, called cultural strata. The first Cultural Stratum consisted of soils associated with the modern Towpath Trail, deposited in the last decades of the twentieth century through the present. The second Cultural Stratum, consisted of various fill lens deposited between ca. 1930s and construction of the Towpath Trail, and the third Cultural Stratum is the material associated with the active life and use of the towpath. In the westernmost unit, Cultural Stratum III was deposited during the 1905 to 1909 rehabilitation event. In the centrally located unit, the third Cultural Stratum was original towpath berm material deposited during the ca. 1825 construction.

These small windows into the towpath stratigraphy and the handful of diagnostic artifacts therein allow us to determine the sequence of construction and reveal that the cultural strata are each associated with significant periods of construction, repair, or reuse in the towpath’s nearly 200-year history. In both units, the first Cultural Stratum marks the construction and continued use of the Towpath Trail, connecting the modern recreational use of the towpath and canal with its historic secondary function as a recreational area for swimming, fishing, and boating.

In Unit 1, Cultural Stratum 2 was deposited in the third quarter of the twentieth century, or later, as indicated by the fragments of plastic food packaging. Given this modern origin, this deposit may be associated with the Towpath Trail, or it may have been deposited in the decades preceding the trail construction during an undocumented repair of the failing towpath. Although the canal was not operational, it was still the only feature keeping the canal waters from flowing south into the Tuscarawas River. Maintenance was still required and the fill was likely derived from canal dredge and the artifacts originated as refuse in the canal prism.

In Unit 2, 21 artifacts were recovered from Cultural Stratum 2. Unlike the second stratum in Unit 1, this stratum did not contain clearly modern materials like plastics. Rather, the artifacts from Unit 2 may connect this stratum with the functioning towpath and canal, although a more reasonable interpretation is that it was deposited during private repair efforts after the 1913 flood ended active shipping on the canal. After 1913, the State abandoned the canal, but in several areas local industries depended on intact segments as water supply and for localized movement of materials. Six of the artifacts recovered from this stratum are diagnostic, including vulcanized rubber fragments, decorated and undecorated whiteware fragments, and fragments of a 1930s Pepsi-Cola bottle. Lacking the clearly modern material observed in Unit 1, this stratum appears to represent fill dredged in the first half of the twentieth century after the 1913 flood.

In both units, Cultural Stratum 3 it is likely associated with the use and operation of the canal and towpath prior to 1913. While artifacts were recovered, none were of clearly twentieth century origin, and they were qualitatively different than those in the overlying soils. Whereas the overlying fills contain mass produced, popular cultural food and drink packaging typical of casual refuse disposal in densely populated areas, the artifacts from Cultural Stratum 3 were predominantly hardware fragments and a few datable pieces of structural tile that were made near the turn of the twentieth century. The absence of modern materials, coupled with the existence of items from ca. 1900, suggests that this stratum was not associated with the construction of the modern Towpath Trail or the initial construction of the towpath at the beginning of the Canal Era. The original towpath berm structure was built from soil excavated from the adjacent canal prism and is expected to contain few, if any, historic artifacts. As such, it is likely that this stratum was deposited during a late-nineteenth century or early twentieth century repair. Given the manufacturing dates associated with the hollow tile, it is interpreted as evidence of the 1905–1909 reconstruction.

In Unit 2, no artifacts were recovered from or observed in Cultural Stratum 3. It also had a substantively different soil matrix than Cultural Stratum 3 in Unit 1. Here, it was marked by a homogenous yellowish brown sand with small stone inclusions. The homogeneity indicates it was deposited as a single event and from a single source. The lack of artifacts suggests it was derived from the canal prism at a time when no historic material would have accumulated. It appears to be the berm material from the original ca. 1825 towpath.

While the excavation of two undisturbed units is perhaps too small a sample to make grand pronouncements about the integrity and interpretive viability of the towpath, they offer a sufficient justification for further investigation. The third unit in this mitigation proves that substantial portions of this feature have been so heavily affected by modern development that location is the only remaining information, but this investigation also reinforces what the historic record and past investigations have documented. The towpath is highly variable along its length and it is very unlikely that any two profiles, even in close proximity to each other, will be the same. However, this Phase III mitigation shows that even under those conditions, or perhaps even because of them, interpretable information about the towpath’s construction, repair, and reuse can be documented. This data can only add to our understanding of this important, but historically unappreciated element of the Ohio and Erie Canal.

References Cited

Board of Public Works

1905 Notice to Contractors. Copies available at the University of Akron Archives, Akron, Ohio. Canal Society of Ohio Archives – CSO Box 7, Folder 16.

1909 Annual Report of the Board of Public Works. Copies available at the University of Akron Archives, Akron, Ohio. Canal Society of Ohio Archives – CSO Box 2, Folder 6.

McClelland, C. P. and C. C. Huntingdon

1905 History of the Ohio Canals: Their Construction, Cost, Use and Partial Abandonment. Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society and the Press of Fred J. Heer, Columbus, Ohio.

Unrau, Harlan D., and Nick Scrattish

1984 Ohio and Erie Canal Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, Ohio. Manuscript on file, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Whitman, Linda G. and Chuck Mustain

2001 Phase III Data Recovery for 33CU372 for the CUY-145 Hillside Road Improvement Project (PID 9700) in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. ASC Group, Inc., Columbus, Ohio. Submitted to URS Corporation, Cleveland, Ohio. Copies on file at the State Historic Preservation Office, Columbus, Ohio.

Welcome Josh Netherton

Please join us in welcoming Josh Netherton, Ecologist at ASC Group’s Indianapolis office. He will be doing ecological fieldwork, NEPA documentation, RFIs, ECLs, and assisting with plant identification. He is a graduate of Ball State University with a BA in Natural Resources & Environmental Management, a minor in Biology, and a focus in Field Botany.


By Ann Cramer, Hocking County Historical Society

This month we mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which established women’s right to vote, or suffrage.  For almost a century of discussions, protests, and movements, the 19th Amendment passed both houses of Congress in 1919. But a majority of 36 states had to ratify it in order for it to become law.


Port Columbus-America’s Greatest Air Harbor Part II

A photograph of the original 1929 Port Columbus terminal taken on July 13, 2019.


by Douglas Terpstra

The first two buildings ever constructed at John Glenn Columbus International Airport are still standing. Construction of the administration building/passenger terminal and a hangar for the Transcontinental Air Transport Company (TAT) began at the then-Port Columbus Airport in May of 1929. Although not quite finished, the terminal was open to visitors when the TAT began passenger service from the airport on July 8, 1929. The terminal was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 on its 50th anniversary. Although not normally open to the public, ASC architectural historian Douglas Terpstra and company owner Shaune Skinner attended an open house at the terminal held on July 13, 2019 to celebrate its 90th anniversary. The Columbus Historical Society and other organizations seeking to preserve and restore the building had historical displays set up in the building. Still owned by the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, the building has been vacant for years, and efforts are underway to find a new use, potentially as an air and space museum.

The open house at the original 1929 Port Columbus terminal on July 13, 2019.


The exterior of the building has a relatively simple design of yellow brick accented with darker bricks. A projecting octagonal control tower is located at its northwestern corner and is topped by a band of alternating triangles and diamonds. Internally, the building has a concrete frame with brick walls. The ground floor originally included a lounge, a waiting room, a ticket office, a dining room, a kitchen, a newsstand, rest rooms, and a lunch and soda counter. The upper floor originally included an office for the TAT, rest rooms, a pilots’ dressing room, a pilots’ lounge, the airport administration office, the airport manager’s office, an office for federal Department of Commerce officials, and offices for companies operating from the airport. The airport manager’s office was located in the tower with broad sweeping views of the airport from the large windows. The control room at the top of the tower was reached via a spiral staircase located just outside of the airport manager’s office. Expansion of the terminal building began after World War II ended; by the 1970s, the building had additions on its western and northern sides. These additions were removed in a restoration that begun in 1984. Unfortunately, water damage from the leaking roof and subsequent mold infestation has led to the removal of most interior walls and original wall surfaces.

Antique vehicles at the July 13, 2019 open house with the original 1929 TAT hangar in the background.

Following World War II, the facilities at Port Columbus were inadequate to handle the growing demand for air travel. Take-offs and landings grew from 64,500 in 1940 to 218,258 in 1947. With an eye to expanding the airport, the city began purchasing land in 1948 until, by 1959, the property had a total area of approximately 2,200 acres. Voters approved bond issues for the airport expansion project in 1951 and 1956. In 1952, the east-west runway was extended from 4,500 to 8,000 feet with parallel taxiways to accommodate the large airplanes entering use. Later known as the south parallel runway, this runway was relocated to the south in a project completed in 2013.

In anticipation of future growth, the city decided to move airport operations from the original terminal on Fifth Avenue to a more centrally located site. Work on a new control tower began in 1953, and a new $4 million terminal building was dedicated in September 1958. The runway was extended again to 10,700 feet, making it the longest commercial runway between New York and Tucson. A second east-west runway was constructed north of the new terminal around this same time. Trans World Airlines (TWA) became the first air carrier to begin jet service at Port Columbus in 1961. With the establishment of a US Customs facility in 1965, Port Columbus reached international status. In 1970, the city opened Bolton Field southwest of downtown to take over much of the general aviation traffic and relieve congestion at Port Columbus. Projects to renovate and expand the 1958 terminal began in the 1970s and continued into recent years.

A fireplace in the former location of the pilots’ lounge on the second floor of the original 1929 Port Columbus terminal.

Other early airport terminals survive elsewhere in Ohio, although they are not as old as the Columbus terminal. The terminal at the Akron-Fulton International Airport (NRHP listed 2001) is an Art Deco-style building completed in 1931 and now houses private offices. The 1936 Moderne-style terminal building at Cincinnati’s Lunken Airport now houses offices and a restaurant.



Drawing of the 1958 Port Columbus terminal and control tower from a display board at the July 13, 2019 open house.


The 1958 Port Columbus terminal as it appeared in 2016 following numerous expansions. The 1953 control tower is visible to the right of center, and its replacement, opened in 2004, is visible at the far left.

Welcome Nora Hillard

Nora Hillard has been with ASC Group’s Indianapolis office since January as a general technician.  She is a field technician on archaeological surveys, processes artifacts in the lab, assists on historic architectural surveys and works on NEPA documents.

Safely Returning to Our Offices

In compliance with State and Federal health and safety recommendations, ASC Group has been working remotely the past two months. We are now in process of returning back to our two Ohio offices in accordance with new guidance from the state of Ohio.  ASC is planning our return to our regional offices in the upcoming weeks. We plan to continue practicing safe social distancing and following recommended best practices to maintain the health and safety of our workers, our clients and community alike.