The rivalries began, so the story goes, in the 1790s, when the boys on the heights threw sun-baked mud balls at the boys from "The Hole" down by the Potomac River.

"The Hole" was Harpers Ferry, and the settlement above was known simply as "Mudfort" before it took its present name of Bolivar -- after South American liberator Simon Bolivar -- in 1825.

For almost 200 years, these adjoining small towns at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers -- 60 miles from Washington and just across the Potomac from Maryland -- have been fussing and feuding with each other.

The latest ruckus involves Harpers Ferry's opposition to a 50-unit, two-story motel to be built just inside Bolivar at U.S. Rte. 340 and Union Street. That location would put the motel near the entrance to the national historic park that makes up the lower part of Harpers Ferry and commemorates the 1859 raid on the federal arsenal here by abolitionist John Brown.

"While Bolivar may have some local right to permit this construction," Harpers Ferry Mayor Bradley D. Nash wrote West Virginia Gov. Arch Moore on Feb. 14, "the dangers to interstate travelers and park visitors at this limited access to Federal Route 340 are so great that special federal and state action seems justified and essential."

Nash, who served as an undersecretary of transportation in the Eisenhower administration, said the motel's presence is certain to increase the number of traffic accidents at the intersection, where there have been 12 mishaps in the past 30 months. But it is unclear what, if anything, Harpers Ferry can do about the Bolivar motel. Construction is due to begin this month.

"I don't appreciate that Harpers Ferry is trying to tell Bolivar what to do, which they have no right to do," said Bolivar Mayor Paul Courtney, who owns an auto parts store and car junkyard.

In some ways the towns are as different as Nash, a Boston native who went to Harvard University, and Courtney. Bolivar, with 672 residents, has traditionally been blue collar. Before the Civil War the arsenal workers lived in Bolivar while the managers lived in the larger homes of Harpers Ferry, said Nash.

The arsenal is long gone, but the federal government is not. The National Park Service has a major training center in Harpers Ferry along with the national park.

Many of Harpers Ferry's 361 residents hold professional jobs and commute by train to Washington. Bolivar, meanwhile, still has a large number of working-class residents.

"They're people that works for a living," is how Courtney put it.

Bolivar, Courtney said, has a small treasury. "We don't have money like Harpers Ferry maybe does, or the federal government to maybe keep up their streets. The federal government is not going to take care of Bolivar." The motel, he said, will offer jobs to residents and property tax revenues for Bolivar that will help replace revenue-sharing monies the Reagan administration wants to cut.

The towns share the Friendship Fire Company, which is in Harpers Ferry. But most of the volunteers are from Bolivar, according to lifetime member Courtney.

For years the towns fought over the leadership of their joint police force. Finally, the current police chief was chosen by the director of the Park Service's National Capital Region after the two local governments failed to agree on a candidate. The police chief is headquartered in Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry also owns the water system that serves both towns.

The towns had separate post offices, but several years ago operations were merged into one post office in Harpers Ferry -- another sore point in Bolivar.

Occasionally there is talk about merging the two towns, but Courtney, who was a council member for 17 years and has been mayor for 10, vowed, "It's not going to happen, as long as I'm mayor."

To take a contrary position is politically risky, according to Stanley Hadden, former Bolivar council member and town treasurer.

One mayoral candidate who campaigned for consolidation two decades ago was soundly defeated, he said.

Suggested Jean Whitehair of Harpers Ferry, "I think it's some jealousy because of the national park. That's the only thing I can figure out. Just a lot of jealousy."

The Park Service, however, intends to stay above the latest fray, according to Harpers Ferry Superintendent Don Campbell. The agency has stirred its own controversy by proposing to close Shenandoah Street, the main entrance to the park, during 15 busy weekends each year.

The motel site, where Union Street joins Rte. 340, is right down the street from Shenandoah.

Sam Chang, who owns the Hagerstown Quality Inn, applied for his building permit in December, and, armed with his water and sewer permits, said he plans to start construction this month.

At a public hearing Jan. 13, he noted, nobody objected.

D.D. (Dixie) Kilham, who owns Hilltop House Hotel in Harpers Ferry, said that was because another meeting was held that night on the proposed Shenandoah Street closing.

"It would be really wonderful if Harpers Ferry and Bolivar could sit down and govern together as one community, but I would never politically advocate this because I'm a relative newcomer," Kilham said. "I've only been here 30 years."