A once-deserted brick building now bustles with the activity of the Ohio River. Inside, children operate a model lock and dam while parents study black and white photographs of workers from years past. New energy abounds at this old wicket dam building.
Built in 1925, the wicket dam at Chilo Lock and Dam #34 in Clermont County, Ohio, was abandoned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1964. Through the vision of the Clermont County Park District and creative funding from a variety of sources, the former powerhouse building was recently transformed into an award-winning, interpretive museum and visitor center depicting life along the river.
Burgess & Niple provided planning and design services for the Chilo Lock #34 Park Visitor Center and Museum, now open to the public. The impact on the community was immediately evident to Clermont County Park District Director Chris Clingman. “It’s been truly amazing to realize the number of people that were connected to this building, whether their parents or grandparents worked here, they come in and share their stories. We’re preserving a part of their past - their childhood,” says Chris.
Members of the Park District board agree. “Until we started this project, I didn’t know how important this building and park were to people who lived and worked here. The project has fulfilled dreams and preserved memories for many people who are connected to Chilo,” said Board Member Dave Anspach.
Ralph Lindsey was the head lockman and diver at Chilo Lock and Dam from 1947 until it closed in 1964. Ralph was a big supporter of the renovation, providing stories, photographs, and interviews for the museum’s video presentation. Ralph saw his past come to life at the Chilo museum before he passed away in October 2005. “I’ve never seen such a change in a building in all my life, and it’s wonderful. This will be something that will be enjoyed for generations,” said Ralph.
Thanks to the Chilo renovation project, Ralph’s memories and the memories of this river community will live on within the old brick building.
The Park District purchased the site from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1985 and tapped every funding outlet possible, including federal, state, county, and local agencies as well as individual contributors to bring the museum to life. Key to funding the project was a grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Scenic Byway Program.
Ken Stewart, a Clermont County Park District board member, believes the persistence paid off. “This is the largest undertaking by the Park District in its history. It has improved the Park District’s image. It brings us up a notch, it increases our profile in the county, and we did it without increasing the cost to taxpayers,” says Ken.
The Park District and Burgess & Niple worked together to secure a grant to improve a dock and boat ramp in the park adjacent to the lock and dam building. Burgess & Niple will prepare the design and engineering work for this enhancement.
Since its completion, the Chilo project has received six awards: