Georgetown Heritage — the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service in restoring and enlivening mile one of the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal — has named a new executive director: Jeffrey L. Nichols. His first day on the job will be Sept. 3.
“As we enter this next phase of the Canal revitalization, Jeff’s strategic vision and passion for the project will help us build on the exciting work we have done, and grow our capacity to achieve our mission,” said Jennifer Romm, who chairs the organization’s board.
For the past seven years, Nichols was president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, outside of Lynchburg, Virginia. The octagonal villa, designed by Jefferson, was a place where the former president could escape from the demands of the far better-known (then and now) Monticello, near Charlottesville. At Poplar Forest, Nichols oversaw major restoration and programming initiatives, also serving on the board of the Virginia Association of Museums.
From 2007 to 2012, the Connecticut-born Nichols was executive director of another National Historic Landmark, the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford.
Nichols has a B.A. in American history from Southern Connecticut State University, an M.S. in museum education from Bank Street College of Education in New York and an MBA from the University of New Haven.
The previous executive director of Georgetown Heritage, from 2016 to 2018, was Alison Greenberg, who brought High Line planners James Corner Field Operations onto the canal park’s design team.
The 184.5-mile canal, constructed between 1828 and 1850 between D.C. and Cumberland, Maryland, ceased operations in 1924. After ownership was transferred from the B&O Railroad to the U.S. government in 1938, decades of partial repair and conflicting plans led to the 1971 establishment of C&O Canal National Historical Park.
Water recently reappeared in the canal’s Georgetown section, which opened in 1831, following the reconstruction of Locks 3 and 4 and some relandscaping between 30th and Thomas Jefferson Streets.
From 1982 to 2011, a 90-foot replica canal boat, pulled by a mule walking on the towpath, carried tourists along the Georgetown stretch. Mules Dolly and Eva, currently stabled in Great Falls, Virginia, are expected to be back on duty toward the end of next summer, when a new canal boat is to make its debut.